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Doug Jones on Moore Suit: 'It's Time to Move On'; Tillerson: U.S. Faced Challenges in Dealing with North Korea; Report: North Korean Defector had Anthrax Antibodies in him. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired December 28, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Doug Jones has a message for his former opponent, "It is time to move on," he says. The Democrat calls - this lawsuit that was filed by his former opponent, Roy Moore, overnight to block his certification, quote, "A desperate attempt to subvert the will of the people." Now, what Moore is alleging is that there was voter fraud. He's calling for an investigation. That's not all. He says that he took a polygraph test that proves he is innocent when it comes to all of these sexual misconduct and sexual assault allegations against him.
Boris Sanchez joins me now from Washington. There's so much to go through here. You've got the Democrat responding in all of this and the Republican Secretary of State who was a supporter of Roy Moore also saying, essentially his claims are baseless.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. Doug Jones putting out the statement just moments ago saying that this was a desperate attempt by Roy Moore saying that the election is over and we should all move on. And then you've got the Attorney General Jon Merrill essentially saying that by 2:00 p.m. local time he, the attorney general and the governor of Alabama, will certify the results of the special election dating back to December 12th.
Roy Moore's filing of this affidavit really a last gasp Hail Mary effort to try to delay this certification, potentially calling for a new special election altogether. Let's dig into the details of this complaint. Roy Moore alleges that in Jefferson County in 20 precincts there, there was voter fraud. This is an area that is -- that has a very large African-American population and according to several election integrity officials that Roy Moore cites in the affidavit voter turnout was so irregular, it was so high that the results should be deemed suspicious. Beyond that, the affidavit makes the claim that people from out of state were bussed into Alabama to vote for Moore's opponent, Doug Jones, who won the special election by more than 20,000 votes.
There are questions now also about those election integrity officials. One of them specifically, Richard Charnin, has kind of a colorful background. He's made - he's pushed conspiracy theories about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as well as about the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich. And perhaps the most surprising thing about this affidavit is the admission from Roy Moore that after the special election he took a polygraph test to answer questions about the allegations that were made against him during the campaign, that he had made inappropriate advances and had inappropriate sexual contact with teenage girls when he was in his 30s and district attorney.
In the affidavit he writes in part, quote, "As I had expected the results of the examination reflected that I did not know, nor had I ever had any sexual contact with any of these individuals." He goes on to call the allegations against him false and malicious attacks on his character and as part of a press release attached to that affidavit he asked supporters, implores supporters to call the Secretary of State's office to delay the certification. Clearly, Poppy, that is not going to happen.
HARLOW: No, it is not. Boris Sanchez reporting in Washington, thank you.
As for the president right now he is using the final days of the year to plug his accomplishments but here's the thing, his facts are off when it comes to how many bills he says he signed into law. Abby Phillip is traveling with the president where he is in West Palm Beach, Florida, spending the holiday. So he went to this fire station last night really to thank these first responders for what they do instead what did he say?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, he really took a big victory lap here in Florida talking a lot about his accomplishments and in some ways inflating what he has accomplished in the last year. Listen to what he had to say to the firefighters yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know one of the things that people don't understand. We have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Now, there's a lot that President Trump can point to in terms of what he's been able to do. He talks a lot about that tax bill. He probably could have talked about some other things including rolling back regulations, the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination but that figure that he mentioned in that clip is just simply untrue. He signed 96 bills into law this year. That's far lower than his recent predecessors.
If you look at the last 10 presidents or so, President Trump is near the bottom. Harry Truman signed between 240 and 250 bills into law. Eisenhower signed 514. And John F. Kennedy signed 684. President Trump at 96 is really near the bottom of recent history here. It's unclear why the president keeps repeating this. Maybe he's thinking about the regulations that his administration has targeted across the federal government and rolled back. But as we all know, Civics 101, that's not the same thing as signing a bill into law, Poppy.
[10:05:02] HARLOW: It's not. Thank you for the class in that this morning, Abby Phillip. We appreciate it.
Let's discuss. Former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston is here, as well as former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and CNN contributor Salena Zito, nice to have you all here. I hope you had a good holiday.
And Congressman, let me get to you first. Help me understand. I mean, you were a big supporter of the president during the campaign. You worked with his team on some issues. Why come out and say something that's not factual? I've signed more legislation than anyone since Truman instead of just saying, oh, I got Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. I got all of these lower court appointments. I got travel ban 3.0 through the courts. I got a partial Obamacare repeal and, you know, and by the way, I got tax reform done which no one's been able to do in 30-plus years. I have a hard time understanding that. Help me.
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, it is interesting because you just reported it was 96 bills. The number I have actually heard and with the same phrase from Paul Ryan himself was that 83 bills have been signed into law which broke a record. So I'm not sure where the difference is in the counting at all. I do think that they have accomplished a lot.
HARLOW: Hold on -- that doesn't break a record. Hold on.
KINGSTON: No, no.
HARLOW: It doesn't break the Truman record.
KINGSTON: But what I'm saying is I hear that not just from the White House but from the legislative branch. I heard it from the speaker, for example.
HARLOW: OK. Then why should anyone do it? Why should anyone do it?
KINGSTON: I don't know what the -- where the counting differs right now and I wish I did. I do know that they passed enormous appropriation bill in April which had lots and lots of different laws included in it but it was still one piece of legislation. But maybe there's a breakdown in something like that. I'm not certain. I know there were a lot of good pieces of legislation like the Veterans Choice Act or pay raises for soldier or over the counter hearing aids which, by the way, was a great bill from Marsha Blackburn and Joe Kennedy. Things like that have gone on and I think they should be a lot more specific when people are talking about it instead of just claiming the numbers.
HARLOW: OK. So, Salena, turning to Alabama and Roy Moore, the Republican who lost in the special Senate election in Alabama, he is trying to contest these results even, you know, the Republican Secretary of State, a supporter of his, saying, nope, we are going forward and we're confirming Doug Jones, a Democrat who won. What's interesting here, is that he's claiming voter fraud and he is saying, you know, the women are liars who have come out with the allegations against him. Some of these are similar to the President Trump playbook who even after he won, claimed voter fraud, set up a commission to investigate it and said all the women with accusations against him are liars. Do you see parallels here? Is the Trump playbook going sour though for Roy Moore?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't know if it's that but I will tell you this. Moore is suffering from this classic case that I see with a lot of politicians, some of them successful, some of them are not successful and that's having no one in the room to tell you, no, you can't do that. You know? I think it's really important that every -- I think that President Trump sometimes suffers from this. Well, probably suffers from this a lot.
There's no one in the room to say, no, don't do this, you can't do this. Someone should tell Moore - someone should have told Moore a long time ago to not even -- to step back let alone go through with what he did and remain so sort of diligent about not leaving and attacking the people that, you know, that accused him of those, you know, horrible acts when they were teenagers. Again, no one is telling Moore to stop it and I think that that's -- that needs to be done. The election's over. The Secretary of State from Alabama was a supporter. And he even said earlier this is done. It's over. Jones won.
HARLOW: That's true. Patti, to you. The thing is Democrats in 2018 and the midterms are not for the most part if any of them going to be running against candidates like Doug Jones, against - excuse me -- like Roy Moore, people who are accused, child molesters. You know, how much can we take from this election in Alabama? How much is this an anomaly? I mean, you have to be careful, right, as a Democrat looking at this and really pointing to anything.
PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think first of all Alabama is one of the reddest of the reddest states. And Democrats want a Senate seat which is, you know, spectacular but I think even looking beyond Alabama, we have seen some real trends where Democrats are doing quite well. We saw it in Virginia. We saw it in New Jersey. You know, we'll see what the end result is but Democrats could turn the State House there, you know, to Democrats favor.
[10:10:02] We also did much better in places like Georgia where there was a special election than expected. I think you see a very unpopular president. I think you see Democrats and a general ballot winning by double digits and some cases 20 points. And we see a president who has now a record. When he ran for president, he didn't really have a record of governing, right? He never served in government and so voters are really sort of willing to throw the dice, can take a risk. But now he has a very clear record and that record has been of divisiveness, of incompetence and every turn sort of favoring the rich and giving whatever scraps are left over to the middle class and the poor.
KINGSTON: But, Patti -
DOYLE: I think Democrats have a very good chance of doing very well in 2018.
HARLOW: Congressman, to you, I mean, just to your response, Patti calls it incompetence for you and your conservative base. I think you would name a lot of those things I listed of at the top as big accomplishments for you. No?
KINGSON: I think my friend Patti is not going to be surprised when I disagree. If we look at unemployment at 17-year low, we look at the stock market bringing $5 trillion new dollars to the economy. A tax cut that's going to give the average middle class family $1,000 less of a tax burden and doubling the standard deduction for them, ISIS losing 98 percent of its territory and illegal border crossings down. I think there are a lot of accomplishments that are going to help.
Now, I do agree with Patti that the party in power historically loses seats almost regardless of what's going on. So, it's going to be very tough for Republicans but we do have a great monetary advantage right now. We have raised record amounts of cash and the Democrat Party, you know, always can compete money-wise with outside groups but party to party the Republican Party is -- has raised far more money this cycle than the Democrats.
HARLOW: Although I would say that your candidate, you know, I would say that President Trump was critical of how much money Hillary Clinton was able to raise and not win the election.
Salena, to you, I mean, to the Congressman's point to the stock market, to unemployment, yes, those are good things to see if you have money in this market, long the market, the unemployment rate is great to see for all of America. They are also right on trend with exactly what was happening under President Obama.
ZITO: Oh yes, absolutely. I mean, I can see a scenario where the Republicans can lose 40 seats. I think that the Democrats would be wise to focus on the suburban districts that Trump won or narrowly won or that Clinton won that are held by Republicans. That's where his - that's where Trump's vulnerability he plays into the midterm election exists. So that's where the opportunities exist for the Democrats. And, you know, I think it would be wise for the Republicans to focus on an infrastructure bill, to focus on something like say welfare reform. Those would be important things and talk up the community. I mean, talk up the economy. But there are vulnerabilities there and they need to, you know, reach back out to their base. I would keep President Trump out of those districts and have those candidates run --
HARLOW: Yes, but he - he wants to run. He wants to be out there a lot according to your reporting. Patti? I got to let Patti have final word.
DOYLE: I hope that Donald Trump campaigns all over the country. I think -- I hope he's out there. I hope he, you know, can golf in every golf course in these battleground districts. It would be great for us Democrats.
HARLOW: Jack Kingston, Congressman, Patti Solis Doyle, Salena Zito, thank you all very much.
America's top diplomat says the U.S. has a poor relationship with Russia, defends the president's foreign policy moves this year and minutes ago, Russia fired back.
Also, forget head winds. One Republican congressman says his party is facing a hurricane in this year's midterms. Hear what he said next.
[10:17:57] HARLOW: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is proud of the work the State Department has done this year. He's optimistic about 2018. He has a new op-ed in "The New York Times" this morning where he writes about Russia, quote, "There are no illusions about the Russian regime." And he also adds that the U.S. has what he calls a poor relationship with a quote, "resurgent Russia that's invaded its neighbors." Russia quick to respond, calls the opinion piece confrontational and fake news.
Let's go to our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott who joins me. A lot to take through in this Tillerson op-ed this morning. Good morning, my friend, nice to have you on.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good to be here.
HARLOW: He takes such a hard line on Russia compared to the president even as recently as last week in his formal comments on the national security strategy. Why do you think that is? Because, clearly, the White House saw this thing before it went to the "Times," right?
LABOTT: Well, I mean, look. Poppy, there's a real disconnect between what the president says and what he tweets and how he talks about Russia and how the rest of the administration considers Russia and how they look at its interference in the election and talking about, you know, it's aggressive behavior. And even if you read the national security strategy that's in the president's name, it looks as Russia as a competitor. As a revisionist power that's trying to kind of reshape the world order against U.S. interests.
So, I think, you know, you have to look at what the president says, of course. But then you have to look at the policies of his administration and they actually have been, you know, rather tough against Russia. Just recently last week, for the first time, the president signed off on the sale of lethal arms to Ukraine and particularly on Ukraine I think this is one issue where the U.S. and Russia tensions are building.
HARLOW: Yes. That's very good point. A move that Senator John McCain applauded and called for more of.
LABOTT: That's right.
HARLOW: On North Korea, Tillerson said, you know, once again taking this -- the line on diplomacy as the top diplomat does, but he said the door is open at least to negotiations but the wording he used I thought was interesting.
[10:20:00] He said the regime, the Kim regime, must earn its way back to the negotiating table. What did you make of that language? LABOTT: Well, you remember a couple of weeks ago, the secretary got in a little bit of hot water when he talked about, you know talks without preconditions. And so, he wasn't talking -- according to his aides about official nuclear negotiations. He was talking about just trying to get, you know, some kind of dialogue with the North Koreans going about the future possibility of talks. I think when he says earn its way back to the table you have seen so many missile tests, so many you know nuclear antics, several nuclear tests, a lot of rhetoric from the North Koreans.
I think what the administration would like to see is a prolonged period of quiet, no North Korean antics, no North Korean missile tests before North Korea could sit down at the table. But ultimately, denuclearization, the end of North Korea's nuclear weapons program is the goal. But I don't think anybody expects that program to be dead and buried before there would be negotiations because that's what the negotiations would be about.
HARLOW: Right. He also addressed at the end of this opinion piece the dysfunction, if you will, within the State Department, all of those very public departures that we have seen. What did you make of that?
LABOTT: Well, look. When the secretary came into the State Department he wanted to, you know, have reorganization, re-design of the State Department. You know the State Department hasn't had kind of reform in about 70 years. I think the way he went about it rubbed people the wrong way. There's a lot of morale that's poor at the State Department and you have seen a lot of long-time diplomats leaving.
I don't think there's a mass exodus as some reports have suggested but clearly morale is low. You know these people don't feel appreciated by the secretary. And that's why I think he came out with this op-ed to say I'm proud of you. I'm proud of the work you're doing. In terms of this re-organization of the State Department it is more about you know streamlining a lot of bureaucratic red tape that gets the diplomats kind of caught in this quagmire of red tape, bureaucracy and not actually doing the diplomacy. So you're going to see a streamlining of technology, human resources practices and that kind of stuff. But I think what the secretary really needs to do and I think this is a first step is try and build morale at the State Department to say I appreciate the work you're doing.
HARLOW: Right. And that's how he started off this opinion piece this morning. Elise Labott, nice to have you, thank you.
LABOTT: Thank you.
HARLOW: There are new fears this morning that North Korea may be developing deadly biological weapons. In a report from South Korean television, the North Korean soldier who defected to South Korea was found to have anthrax anti-bodies in his system. This indicates that he was either vaccinated against anthrax or exposed to it at some point. We should note though, South Korea's national intelligence service told CNN it could not confirm the report. Also new this morning, some signs that North Korea is moving equipment around, possibly in preparation for another missile launch. Let go to the Pentagon, that's where we find our Barbara Starr with more on that. So let's begin there. What is this movement indicating to you?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, U.S. officials are watching very carefully now because there are some very preliminary indications we are told. North Korea is in fact moving some equipment around, possibly including vehicles. Could be, could be indicators that they might be headed down the road towards either the launch of a satellite which is something they've been indicating or even, in fact, another ballistic missile test.
The timing though very sensitive because, of course, after the new year we have the Olympic games coming up in South Korea and what everybody's looking for is some stability, some peace and quiet on the Peninsula during this whole time frame. They want to keep it quiet and stable.
So, if Kim were to decide on some sort of provocation activity, some sort of launch. That would be disquieting to the U.S. and to the allies in the region. So they will be watching very carefully but it's very early days and they're not really sure yet what Kim may be up to next. Poppy?
HARLOW: And Barbara, you have some new reporting on what seems to be at least a shift in the administration's public stance on some of the joint military exercises with our allies South Korea, Japan. When's going on?
STARR: Yes. It again goes back to this notion. They're looking for a period of quiet stability on the Peninsula. They're looking to give diplomacy some elbow room to work. And one of the ways to do that, the feeling is, is to be more quiet, more discrete about upcoming U.S. training and war game exercises with the South Koreans and the Japanese aimed at demonstrating U.S. military capability. Normally you hear the Pentagon very up front talking about it, saying we are going to send ships, we're going to send aircraft. We're going to do flyovers to demonstrate U.S. military capability against North Korea. For the next several weeks, couple of months, maybe, through the games, expect to see the Pentagon not talking about any of that, again, an effort to keep it quiet and stable. Poppy?
[10:25:11] HARLOW: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, we appreciate the reporting, the updates. Thank you very much.
Ahead for us, a major victory for conservative lawmakers with tax reform, but will that help them propel a winning streak at the polls through the midterms next year, next.
HARLOW: Republicans finishing out 2017 with a critical win on tax reform, the next big challenge, though, right around the corner. The Republican Party bracing for quite a battle in the 2018 midterms, history shows not necessarily on their side. My next guest says his party may very likely lose their majority. Joining me now Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, nice to have you here, Happy holidays. Thanks for joining us.
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Hey, thank you. You bet, great to be with you.
HARLOW: So, as you know 27 of your Republican colleagues in Congress are not seeking reelection next year. That's compared to 15 Democrats. Your outlook for the party in your own words is this, they're running -