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CNN NEWSROOM

Senate Confirmation Hearing for Supreme Court Nominee Begins; Trump Irritated at Being Left Out of Woodward Book; High-Stakes Confirmation Hearing Kick Off for Kavanaugh; Life-Threatening Storm Surges Expected for Gulf Coast; Over a Million Under Hurricane Warning as Gordon Nears Gulf Coast; Louisiana, Mississippi Governors Declare States of Emergency; Stocks Set to Dip as September Trading Begins. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 4, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:14] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Hope you had a good Labor Day weekend. It is a busy Tuesday morning. We are 30 minutes away from the start of confirmation hearings for President Trump's second Supreme Court pick in less than two years. And while all Supreme Court nomination fights are momentous, this one stands apart.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh now on the D.C. Court of Appeals would almost certainly not be the quintessential swing vote of the justice that he is meant to replace, Anthony Kennedy. Republicans hope and Democrats fear that Kavanaugh will put a conservative stamp on health care, on the environment, presidential powers, reproductive choice, all that could last for a generation.

That is why the drama that starts this hour and that you will see here live and runs all week in the Senate Judiciary Committee is real. This is not just for the cameras and it's why Senate Democrats are furious this morning that just a little over 12 hours ago the panel received some 42,000 pages worth of documents from Kavanaugh's time working in the White House of President George W. Bush. This was before he became a judge.

Chuck Schumer says that is, quote, "an absurd development," and wants the hearings delayed. That will not happen, though, so let's go to the hearing room. Our Arianne de Vogue is there on Capitol Hill as we get a little bit of a look -- Arianne.

Good morning to you. We're getting a look at what Judge Kavanaugh will say as he speaks before the Judiciary Committee. Any surprises?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said, this is going to be a bitter fight. Right? Brett Kavanaugh, he wants the seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy was so key, the swing vote, on really important social issues -- abortion, LGBT rights, Affirmative Action.

Kavanaugh is not only more conservative than Kennedy but he's also much younger. He's going to be on the court for decades to come and he is really -- has about 300 opinions that he's written that shows that he's solidly conservative.

We're hearing a little bit this morning about what he's going to say in his opening statement. Let me read you a little bit of it, he'll say, "A good judge must be an umpire, a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigants or policy." He'll say, "I don't decide cases based on personal or policy preferences, I am not pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge, I am not pro-prosecution or pro-defense. I am pro-law."

And interestingly, he also had another part where he nods to Obama's nominee who never got a hearing. He said, "I have served with 17 other judges, each a colleague and a friend on a court led by our superb Chief Judge Merrick Garland."

It's interesting that he would bring up Garland, Poppy, on a day like today.

HARLOW: I think -- I'm so glad you pointed that out because when I was reading these, you know, remarks I was fascinated by that but it's not the first time, Ariane, that he's praised Merrick Garland. I mean, a few years ago he called him supremely qualified for the high court.

Before we move on, Chuck Grassley, the Republican chair of the committee, is going to take, we understand, a big chunk of time this morning in his opening statement to defend what Democrats are calling out and that is this essentially a document dump. Last night 42,000 documents about his time in the Bush White House, and Grassley is going to take a lot of time to defend that this morning. Is that right?

DE VOGUE: That's right. He's going to, first of all, of course talk about Kavanaugh, and call him a good judge, and he's going to talk about prior hearings. But he's going to take a significant time to defend the process that's been coming under such heat. And from Grassley's perspective, he says, look, there are thousands and thousands of documents and I'm going to release many of time but he's going to say Democrats should look at the 300 opinions that Kavanaugh authored when he was on the lower court. Look at that, but Democrats are coming back and they have three lines of attack.

They say look, first of all, there's a whole bunch of documents that are being labeled "committee confidential" and just last night we got 40,000 more of those and what's important here, Poppy, is the people who designated those confidential are Trump and Bush lawyers. So Democrats are fuming about that. They also say look, we got nothing on his time as staff secretary and the White House is saying that it thinks 100,000 documents are subject to privilege, so we won't see those either, Poppy.

HARLOW: That's right. Ariane, thank you for the reporting. We'll be back with you all morning as these hearings get underway.

Let's go to the White House, though. That's where our Abby Phillip joins us. Good morning, Abby. So what is the feeling there in terms of, you

know, the newer controversy this morning, if you will, about these documents?

[09:05:05] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Poppy. The White House is looking at this as the opportunity for Judge Kavanaugh to really introduce himself and they also feel that despite all of this talk, as Ariane just talked about, all these documents being the subject of such controversy among Democrats, they don't think that that controversy has touched Kavanaugh at all.

In fact it's being seen as a kind of bureaucratic dispute that rank- and-file folks who are watching this hearing, maybe they're tuning in, are not going to pay attention to. In other words, Brett Kavanaugh, according to the White House's view of this, has an opportunity to kind of lay himself out to the public without having been damaged by what the White House thinks is such in-the-weeds controversy that it has not affected his nomination.

That being said, we will see him talking about his personal life a lot today. The White House is looking for clues as to where Democrats are going to be going with their attacks on Kavanaugh later in the week, and they've been preparing him in some mock hearings and mock sessions over the last week to deal with some withering attacks from Senate Democrats that will be faced across the way from him.

He's been a judge for 12 years, he's been dealing with people giving him deference. They've been really preparing him to face interruptions, potential protests, and really what could be a very contentious next couple of days -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Could, I think, may be an understatement. This is going to be quite a spectacle.

PHILLIP: Exactly.

HARLOW: Abby, stay with me. OK.

Let's bring in Jeffrey Toobin, our chief legal analyst, Joan Biscupic, our Supreme Court analyst, and David Gergen, our senior political analyst.

Nice to have you all here.

You know, David Gergen, not only is this so consequential, as all Supreme Court nominations are. This is the president's second pick in as many years. This is 62 days ahead of the midterms. I mean, this is in a hyperpartisan environment.

How much of today will be about really getting to the nuts and bolts and getting into the mind of Judge Kavanaugh and how much will be about grandstanding for these senators?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think that this is such an epic conflict. Both sides are going to play to the public. The Republicans are going to present this folksy very appealing figure and he will -- I think talking about his family the night he was announced was appealing, that rollout was very well done.

HARLOW: Sure.

GERGEN: But at the same time the Democrats are going to say look below the surface. What you do not see is a neutral umpire. He talks -- Kavanaugh talks in his opening statement about wanting to be an impartial umpire and the opinions he's given tell the Democrats he's anything but. He's a hard line conservative. He already has pre-set views and that sort of thing. And this is -- you know, this is a contradiction that's a tension in the hearings. I think these are going to be a very tense hearing because everyone knows he's likely to get the votes but the argument to come out today could have impact for years to come and they could show the path that's ahead.

Republicans think it's a wonderful path. They wanted to be here for years and years. This is a fulfillment of all their dreams to have a 5-4 majority on the court. And the Democrats think this is the road to a court that's going to tear down all those protections we have built up over the years in civil rights, whether it's abortion or Affirmative Action or gay rights, you can go down the list, as well as presidential power.

HARLOW: And we'll get into all of that including what --

GERGEN: Right.

HARLOW: You know, what he has said on "Roe v. Wade" to some of these Republican senators who have questions about it in a moment.

But before we do that, Jeffrey, to the documents. OK. You do have more than 101,000 of these documents that the administration has held back. They've said this -- you know, they have the privilege to do this. This is about his time in the Bush White House. Those three years as staff secretary. He has sort of -- he has two professional lives, yes, he is a judge and was a judge but he also was a political operative for a long time.

He worked in the Bush White House and worked with Ken Starr investigating Presidents Bill Clinton. When it comes to that Chuck Grassley says no, no, no, the most germane thing here is his record of these 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court. Dianne Feinstein says not the case whatsoever and then here is how Grassley defended it this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Complaining about a certain amount of documents not being available when this Kavanaugh record is all the papers we have on him is five times -- no, I shouldn't say five times, it's equal to or more than all five Supreme Court nominees prior to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: But here's how Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut just responded moments ago. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: From the document dump last night, 42,000 documents that we've been denied any chance to review carefully and deliberately breaks all the norms.

[09:10:05] Invoking executive privilege and hiding documents makes this hearing a charade and a sham, and that's why we're going to ask it be postponed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: OK. So, Jeffrey Toobin, to you, I mean, is this the norm or is this anything but the norm? It suppose it depends what side you're on.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there has never been executive privilege cited in refusing to produce documents from White House -- former White House aides like John Roberts and Elena Kagan, and, you know, the idea that, you know, Republican lawyers are deciding what's confidential and what's not.

But, you know, there's one reason why the Republicans are not turning over these documents. It's because they can. Because they control the process, they have the votes. They are going to push this thing through and that's really what this is about. This is not about law, it's about power and Republicans have the power, they have the majority in the Senate and they have the majority on the committee.

And Chairman Grassley is just going to push this thing forward regardless of the Democratic objections and we'll see if the public gives a darn. Generally they don't.

HARLOW: And when you talk about, Joan, the importance of this seat and this swing vote that Kennedy often was sometimes, you know, to cheering liberals, sometimes to cheering conservatives. It's important to note how hugely consequential this is in that Kavanaugh is so different from Kennedy. Right? He may have clerked for Kennedy but he is so different from Kennedy.

You write the in your fascinating piece this morning, "The stakes for the nine-member Supreme Court are greater than they have been in decades." So what will we and what won't we hear from Kavanaugh this morning?

JOAN BISCUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: It's so interesting. You know the inevitability is so striking when you contrast it to the consequences. You know, we have one week of hearings but this is going to set the course of American law for probably a generation and a half. He could serve easily for 30 years.

We're going to -- once we get past all the grandstanding today and, you know, early tomorrow we're going to get into the nitty-gritty of questions about what will he potentially say about "Roe v. Wade," what would he say about how he views racial remedies? What will he say about executive power being so salient today because of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigation.

And I have that what the Democrats are going to try to do is to pin him down on real-world issues that will be of consequence to the American public watching. For example, on the Affordable Care Act. There's litigation still out there about the 2010 Obamacare law that has been so meaningful to so many people and Democrats will try to at least get some philosophy out of him.

Now of course he knows how to evade these questions and, in fact, I'm struck by Abby's comments about Chairman Grassley saying we don't think the document issue or any of the hearing process issues are affecting Judge Kavanaugh. But let me remind everyone that Judge Kavanaugh was at the scene of Supreme Court confirmations back in 2005 and 2006 with Chief Justice John Roberts and Sam Alito.

HARLOW: Right.

BISCUPIC: He knows exactly how all of this all works. He knows exactly what needed to be done ahead of time to keep documents back.

HARLOW: And Joan, just before we move on quickly.

BISCUPIC: Yes.

HARLOW: "Roe versus Wade" is going to be a huge issue and a huge line of questioning for Democrats, we know that. And some Republicans as well. The thing is, he has said, you know, it is a settled matter. Right? There's precedent and that seems to have assuaged concerns of Senator Susan Collins when she met with him ahead of these hearings. But that term "settled" really doesn't mean anything when you're looking for a gig on the high court. It's very different than if you're sitting on a lower court, right?

BISCUPIC: Right. Two things on that, Poppy. First is that sure it's settled but, you know, Supreme Court justices reverse settled law all the time. We saw that just in June when the court reversed four- decade-old ruling having to do with union dues and union power so we know that the Supreme Court will reverse precedent. We heard Lindsey Graham tell CNN over the weekend that he hopes that John Roberts takes a look at "Roe v. Wade" and considers reversing it based on principles that Judge Kavanaugh and -- and other jurists have said allow the court to reverse precedent.

HARLOW: OK. Everyone, stay with me. We have a lot to get through as we await these hearings set to begin in just a few minutes.

But also some new reporting for you this morning on Bob Woodward's new book, "Fear, Trump in the White House." It's not going to be out for a week but we're learning this morning from sources talking to CNN that the president is already getting more and more irritated about being left out of it. What does that mean?

Let's go to our correspondent at the White House. Kaitlan Collins who has new reporting on that.

So irritated, what? That he didn't do an interview? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, he's irritated

that he didn't do an interview with Bob Woodward ahead of this book before it went to print. Now that's not for lack of trying on Bob Woodward's part --

[09:15:00]

POPPY HARLOW, HOST, NEWSROOM: So irritated -- going on at the White House, Kaitlan Collins with new reporting on that. So irritated, what? That he didn't do an interview?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, he's irritated that he didn't do an interview with Bob Woodward ahead of this book before it went to print. Now, that's not for lack of trying on Bob Woodward's part. He actually reached out to several high ranking officials in the White House, trying to get an interview with President Trump on this new book that details life inside the Trump administration.

But even though there were discussions between those high-ranking officials about whether or not the president should sit down with him ahead of this interview, have a chance to tell his side of the story. An interview never panned out between President Trump and Bob Woodward before this book went to print.

And now in recent days, the president has been complaining that he's irritated that he didn't end up doing an interview with Bob Woodward ahead of this book. Now, Poppy, what that really reflects is this growing sense of anxiety in the White House over this book because of course over the last nine months or so, they have been rocked by two tell-all books, one by Michael Wolff and the other by Omarosa Manigault Newman; the former staffer.

But those books, they were able to shield themselves a little bit from the claims made in those, saying that some of them were questionable, but people in the White House, Poppy, are readily conceding they won't have that out here with Bob Woodward because he is this veteran journalist who covered the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein, has written several tell-all books about past presidential administrations.

And now staffers are getting concerned that they don't know what's going to be revealed in this book and gets released next week.

HARLOW: And just to dig into this a little bit more, Kaitlan, I mean, your reporting also shows that John Kelly; Chief of Staff instituted this no interview policy, right, for books, period, after, you know, the Michael Wolff saga --

COLLINS: That's right, after that Michael Wolff book --

HARLOW: Right --

COLLINS: Came out that had all those sensational details, but of course, Michael Wolff was spotted in the West Wing on several occasions, he quoted several senior officials including Steve Bannon. And so after that book came out, we were told that Chief of Staff John Kelly said there were not going to be any more interviews of that nature on the White House grounds for anymore upcoming books.

Now, of course, there are several officials, at least a dozen current and former officials who confirmed to Cnn that they did speak with Bob Woodward for his book. Some of those were before that rule was instituted, some were after. And a senior official disputed that saying that there wasn't a ban on doing those interviews, but instead, it's in a more organized basis going forward after the fallout from that Wolff book.

But Poppy, the bottom line is what I've heard from people who have read fragments in this book, no one has read all of it, is that they are stunned by the level of detail that Bob Woodward has about what it is that is going on inside the White House.

That is creating that sense of anxiety ahead of the publishing of the book, and of course, that President Trump is irritated he never had a chance to sit down with Bob Woodward and tell his side of the story ahead of this book.

HARLOW: All right, Kaitlan, and the book comes out in a week, we'll see when we read it, thanks for the reporting. And we are again, just minutes away as you see on the bottom of your screens -- oh, it's just there from the hearing for a Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. We will bring that to you live as soon as it begins.

Also we're watching the breaking news today. Tropical Storm Gordon barreling toward the Gulf Coast expected to hit as a category one hurricane tonight. Officials warning of a life-threatening storm surge. So we'll take you live to Louisiana.

[09:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right, welcome back to our breaking news. You are looking at Capitol Hill where the hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is about to begin. You see the back of Senator Orrin Hatch's head right there.

The members of the committee are filing in. This will get started in about eight minutes or so. We'll hear opening statements from Dianne Feinstein and also Senator Chuck Grassley and then all the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will make remarks.

We will bring it to you live in just a moment, but ahead of that, I want to get to this breaking news right now. We're following this tropical storm that is barreling towards the United States. Officials warning of a life-threatening storm surge. This is tropical Storm Gordon, it is bearing down right now on the Gulf Coast.

Nearly two million people are under a hurricane warning as Gordon is expected to strengthen in the next few hours into a category one hurricane before making landfall later today. The governors of both Louisiana and Mississippi have already declared states of emergency, we're following this from every angle, let's go to Ed Lavandera, he joins me this morning in New Orleans.

So a tropical storm now, Ed, but they're saying this is going to be a cat one hurricane when it hits tonight.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, you know, so a lot of people really monitoring this closely, always a concern in the back of people's mind is that once these storms get out over the Gulf waters, they increase in intensity rather quickly. So people watching that -- and we're in New Orleans because one of the major concerns here isn't so much the strength and just how strong the winds here are going to be.

But it's going to be the rain and the flooding potential, especially given here over the course of the last year, there has been a lot of focus and concern about the pumping and drainage system here in this city, and whether or not this city can handle once again some of these potential downpours and heavy downpours that would be coming with a storm of this magnitude.

So that is the underlying concern here in this city of New Orleans, and obviously as you spread out and fan out into the areas outside of this city and along the Louisiana Gulf Coast and Mississippi and Alabama as well, it's that storm surge that will come here with a tropical Storm Gordon.

And what that means for local communities there. So that is really the concern of once again emergency officials issuing those warnings to people up and down the Gulf Coast to really be aware of those storm surges as this landfall is expected to -- the storm is expected to make landfall later this evening. Poppy?

HARLOW: OK, Ed, thank you for being there and keeping a very close eye on it. Let's go over to the severe Weather Center now, Chad Myers turned tuned this morning. So it's going to strengthen in the next few hours, right? Category one, what else can you --

CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: Right --

HARLOW: Tell us?

MYERS: We're seeing the strengthening happening right now. And it didn't happen all night long, and we're sitting here in the weather office going, hey, this may be nothing. This may be a TS at landfall.

[09:25:00] But now finally, the airplanes that are flying through it, the hurricane under -- they are now flying into stronger winds, 61 miles per hour, all night was 55.

But we're also seeing a much larger increase in lightning and thunder out there. That's the center of the storm, and when the lightning and thunder start to get there, that means the storms start to get -- there was no lightning and thunder all night, but now we are expecting that to get going. Like Ed was saying, it's in the warm water.

This water is 87 degrees out there, warmer than you want to swim in your pool. There is the center of the storm, likely making landfall very close to Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, Gulfport, somewhere between 10:00 and midnight tonight.

But don't let that fool you because by 6 O'clock, your winds are already going to be strong. They're already going to be somewhere in the ballpark of 75 miles per hour, right, even on those islands.

Anywhere in this area from New Orleans all the way to Mobile. So here is the latest wind speed, now 63. The last one we had was 61, so this is flown through the center -- this is not an eye, but it's flown through the center eye three times and it picked up 63.

So now we're getting higher and higher and higher, and the organization is getting higher and higher and higher with these temperatures. There is no reason for this storm to not get stronger, and that's the forecast and that's what's going to happen later on tonight. Storm surge around Biloxi where our Jennifer Gray(ph) is, it could be three to five feet.

HARLOW: Yes, wow, and that's why the states of emergency have already been declared and why you see the all the prep that's being done there. All right, thank you, Chad, appreciate the update, keep us posted.

All right, back to Washington because moments from now, fireworks set to begin on Capitol Hill. You see sitting Senator Orrin Hatch there and the Republicans and the Democrats are filing in for the confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be potentially the next Supreme Court Justice.

We'll bring it to you live. And the opening bell about to ring on Wall Street, the Dow could struggle a little bit at the open. Trade fears looming large. September, historically a pretty rough month for stocks, all three major averages though, I should note right near record highs, we'll be right back.

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