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Contentious Confirmation Hearing for Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh; Derogatory Comments in new Bob Woodward Book on White House. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired September 4, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D), CONNECTICUT: In fact, I have these fears because, Judge Kavanaugh, this system and process has changed so radically.
In fact, you have spent decades showing us, in many ways, what you believe, or to put it more precisely, you've spent decades showing those groups, like the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation and others, what you believe.
They're the ones who have really nominated you because the president outsourced this decision to them. In those opinions, and writings, and statements, and interviews, you've done everything in your power to show those far-right groups that you will be a loyal soldier on the court.
And I'm going to use some of those writings, and some of the timing, and other indications, to show that you are more than a nominee, in fact a candidate in a campaign that you have conducted. That seems to be, unfortunately, the way the system has worked in your case.
The norms have been dumbed-down, and the system has been degraded, but I think that we have an obligation to do our job and illicit from you, where you will go as a justice on the United States Supreme Court.
Based on what you've written and said, and also what you will tell the American people in these hearings. I join in the request that's been made of you that you show the initiative and ask for a postponement on these hearings.
I think that this process has been a grave disservice to you, as well as this committee, and the American people. If you are confirmed after this truncated and concealed process, there will always be a taint. There will always be an asterisk after your name, appointed by a President named as an unindicted co-conspirator after the vast majority of documents relating to the most instructive period of his life were concealed.
The question will always be why was all that material concealed? You've coached, and you've mentored judges in going through this process. You are as sophisticated and knowledgeable as anyone who will ever come before us as a judicial nominee.
So, you know that we have an obligation to inquire as to everything that can be relevant. And it's not the numbers of documents. It's the percentage. There were no emails when Justice Ginsburg was the nominee.
The documents that we've been provided contain duplicates. They're full of junk. We need everything that is relevant, including the three years that you served in the Bush White House as Staff Secretary, the most instructive period of your professional career.
So, let me just conclude by saying, you know, what we share, I think, is a deep respect and reverence for the United States Supreme Court. I was a law clerk, as you were. I've argued cases before the Court. Most of my life has been spent in the courtroom as a U.S. attorney, or as Attorney General.
The power of the Supreme Court depends not on armies or police force, it has none, but on its credibility, the trust and confidence of the American people.
I ask you to help us uphold that trust by asking this committee to suspend this hearing and come back when we have a full picture, with the full sunlight, that our chairman is so fond of espousing, so that we can, fully and fairly, evaluate your nomination. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[14:35:00] GRASSLEY: Once again, I would remind everybody, we have...
GRASSLEY: ... A half a million -- half a million documents on this gentleman's record. And also, I'd like to respond to...
PROTESTER: What are you hiding?
GRASSLEY: .. The fact that you can't go 42,000 pages, which I guess is way over the number of documents that -- that we actually received. The majority and minority receive documents in two ways. One is a format that can be uploaded to reviewing platforms and the second is in a standard document file format called PDFs.
Given the importance of reviewing documents in a timely manner, my staff reviewed the PDF versions. The production was relatively small and, therefore, there was no need to upload them to a reviewing (inaudible)...
Senator -- Senator -- Senator Kennedy -- Senator Kennedy, you're next.
KENNEDY: Say again?
GRASSLEY: You're next, Senator Kennedy.
PROTESTER: Senators (ph), please vote no.
PROTESTER: Vote no.
PROTESTER: Stop the ...
PROTESTER: Stop the oppression (ph) (inaudible)...
PROTESTER: (inaudible) stop the (inaudible)...
PROTESTER: ... Stop the oppression of (inaudible).
KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I -- I've listened with interest today. I agree so much with what Senator Sasse said. I listened today and -- and it's no -- no wonder to me that so many Americans think that the United States Supreme Court is nothing more than a little Congress, a political body like the United States Senate.
But let me try to explain what I'm looking for in a Supreme Court justice. I want a judge; I don't want a politician. Now, I'm not naive. It's true; Senator Booker and I are new to the Senate. We -- we didn't come here when Moses walked the earth, but we're not new to politics.
And I understand that -- that human relations are about politics; I get that. But I don't think our founders ever intended for the United States Supreme Court to become a political body; I don't. I'm not looking for an ideologue. I'm not looking for a hater.
What I am looking for is somebody who's whip-smart, who's intellectually curious, who writes cleanly and crisply, who knows what a semicolon is for, and who is willing to protect the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and understands that the Bill of Rights is not an a la carte menu. Every one of them counts.
Let me try to explain further why I agree with so much of what Senator Sasse said. This is not a newsflash; our country is divided. We've been divided before. We'll be divided again. We will survive this. But I confess, the division in our country today is -- seems to me, to be especially sharp.
And what concerns me so much about the -- that division is the basis for it. It's not honest disagreement. So much of it is anger. There have been thousands, millions of pages written about the genesis of that anger.
We all have opinions. You know what they say about opinions. Here's mine. I think a big part of the anger in America today is because we have too many Americans who aren't sharing in the great wealth of this country -- not economically, not socially, not culturally and not spiritually. And -- and those Americans believe that the American dream has become the American game, and that that game is fixed.
[14:40:00] Let me give you one example of why I say that. I don't hear it so much today -- I'm biased -- but I happen to think the Tax Cuts and Jobs bill -- Act -- worked. But when I ran two years ago, I would hear it every single day. People would stop me and they would say, Kennedy, you know what's wrong with us economically? They would tell me, I look around, Kennedy, and I see too many undeserving people -- I emphasize undeserving, I don't want to paint with too broad a brush.
They would tell me, Kennedy, I look around and I see too many undeserving people at the top getting bailouts. And I see too many undeserving people at the bottom getting handouts. And I'm here just a working schmuck in the middle, stuck in the middle, and I can't pay the freight anymore because my health insurance has gone up, and my kid's tuition has gone up, and my taxes have gone up but I'll tell you what hadn't gone up, my income.
Now, I happen to think we're doing better in that regard but we've still got to work -- a long way to go. But here's the point, who's supposed to fix that for the American people? It's us. It's the United States Congress. It's not the United States Supreme Court that's supposed to fix this country culturally, economically, socially, spiritually.
And -- and that's why I say I agree with so much of what Senator Sasse said. It's almost become cliche, but the role of a judge is -- or, at least should be to say what the law is not what the law ought to be. Now, that's become cliche, but cliches become cliches because they're true.
Judges are not put there to try to bypass the ballot. Courts should not try to fix problems that are within the province of the United States Congress. Even if the United States Congress doesn't have the courage to address those problems, our courts were not meant to decide these kind of issues.
I'm not -- again, I'm not naive -- I know that judges aren't robots. We -- we can't replace you and shouldn't try to replace you with a software program based on artificial intelligence. You have discretion. We're going to talk about that if we ever get to the questioning part of this exercise.
But I want to say it again, I understand why, listening today, that so many Americans believe that the law which I think all of us revere, has become politics just pursued in another way. That's not the way it's supposed to be, judge. That's not what I'm looking for.
Now, I'm going to end -- I've still got plenty of time left, I think I had two hours allotted, Mr. Chairman?
Somebody talked about -- said that they'd seen this movie before. I commented to my friend, Senator Tillis, this thing's as long as a movie. These are the words of Justice Curtis in 1857 when he dissented in the Dred Scott case, "when a strict interpretation of the Constitution, according to the fixed rules which govern the interpretation of laws is abandoned and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control its meaning, we have no longer a Constitution.
We are under the government of individual men who, for the time being, have power to declare what the Constitution is according to their own views of what it ought to mean. That's not the rule of law.
Justice Scalia put it another way, and I truly will end with that. He said the American people love democracy and the American people are not fools. The people know their value judgments are quite as good as those taught in any law school, maybe better.
Value judgments, after all, should be voted on, not dictated. And that's what I'm looking for, Judge. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GRASSLEY: (OFF MIKE)
[14:44:50] HIRONO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Judge Kavanaugh and your family, welcome. Mr. Chairman, earlier on today I --
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
You have been listening to the contentious confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. He is just half of a massive news day.
Also happening exclusive new details about the president and his White House in a new book by Bob Woodward, We have the scoop on that. We will get to that in just a moment.
But first let's talk about what we've been listening to for the last little bit.
I have had the pleasure you have sitting next to John Dean.
Listening to your running commentary. Even just jogging back to Senator Blumenthal and the chairman of the committee, Chuck Grassley, back and forth, he had made a motion to adjourn as had several other Senators. What do you make of this?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It's a little bit of pandemonium. But there's also clearly an effort to get to the core problem the Democrats face is the lack of documentation and a thorough vetting of this candidate. I think they're right to push for this. This is being jammed through, trying to get it through before the election because no one can be sure what's going to happen in November. They think they have the votes now, they are not so sure they will have them after November. So they're pushing.
BALDWIN: They had been hoping to have, what was it, some 100,000 documents -- I know they wanted many more than that, and then some 42,000 had just been delivered to them from his time at the Bush 43 White House and they obviously didn't have enough time at all to review them. I know you're testifying as a witness Friday.
DEAN: Friday. Maybe. BALDWIN: Depending on how this goes.
BALDWIN: And the tic-tock of the whole thing.
Let me move on because I want to get this. We have stunning new details about what's been called the nervous breakdown of the White House. Here is some words for you, "idiot, unhinged, understanding of a fifth or sixth grader and an f'ing lawyer." These are words coming from high-profile White House insiders reportedly used to describe the president of the United States. The details are all laid out in this new book by legendary journalist, Bob Woodward, one half of the team that broke the Watergate scandal. Woodward relies on hundreds of hours of taped interviews and dozens of sources in Trump's inner circle, as well as documents, files, diaries, memos including a handwritten note by the president himself. They reveal ex below testify hostility between the president and his closest aides.
White House chief of staff, John Kelly, is quoted calling Trump an idiot and unhinged. Defense Chief James Mattis compares Trump's understanding to that of a fifth or sixth grader and one of the president's former lawyers flat out calls him a liar, I think he uses a colorful word as an adjective before liar. Staff even revealing what they've had to do to protect the country from President Trump.
So for all of this reporting ahead of this book coming out the 11th of this month let's go straight to our special correspondent, Jamie Gangel.
Jamie, there's a lot to sift through, a lot of the most incendiary details come from the president's own chief of staff.
JAMIE GANGEL CNN SPEIAL CORRSPONDENT: Correct. So CNN obtained a copy of the book, I have read the book, and I think that what Woodward has presented here is a devastating portrait, Brooke. We've heard about chaos, we've heard about dysfunction, but the details in this book are like nothing we have ever heard before, especially since they're coming from his inner circle, the people who are working with him day in and day out, some are former administration officials, but there are also people like the present Chief of Staff John Kelly, the former defense -- the present Defense Secretary James Mattis and you hear words like erratic, unhinged, alarmed, just over and over again. So it's not just one person, it's from dozens of people. The way I would describe it is in Watergate Bob Woodward had deep throat as his source. He has in this book dozens of deep throats. The other thing that happened that was interesting is President Trump is clearly upset about this book and on august 14th he called Bob Woodward when he found out it was coming out and bob, with the president's permission, recorded the phone call and we're going to play you a clip of it. This is where it becomes apparent to the president that bob has sources inside the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOB WOODWARD, JOURNLAIST: I've got to go talk to people and see them outside of the White House and outside of their offices and gained a lot of insight and documentation and it's -- you know, it's a tough look at the world and your administration and you.
[14:50:10] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right. Well, I assume that means it's going to be a negative book. But, you know, I'm sort of 50 percent used to that. That's all right. Some are good and some are bad. Sounds like this is going to be a bad one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANGEL: It's really a turning point where Bob says a tough look at you. And even though the president is sort of funny, he says 50 percent of the time, you can hear that his tone of voice changes.
BALDWIN: At one point, you hear Bob Woodward on the, phone call saying, I broke my spear on it trying to get to you. Clearly he has talked to several people and the president keeps saying he wishes he talked to him but he says he's ready for another bad book. This is president. We're still waiting on a tweet.
GANGEL: If you read the transcript, which I believe we have posted on CNN.com, we have the transcript of the whole 11-minute call, what you see is that Bob requested an interview with the president through six different people, including Kellyanne Conway who gets on the phone call in the middle of it and admits that Bob put in a request. And then throughout the call President Trump keeps saying, well, I didn't hear about it, I didn't hear about it, and then Bob says to him, well, didn't Lindsey Graham, Senator Lindsey Graham --
BALDWIN: And then he said, oh, yes, very quickly. Very quickly he did.
GANGEL: He says that's true. That's true. So there's one of those Trump 180s.
Jamie, don't go far because I know you have all these details.
John Deal is with me, Jeff Toobin and Gloria Borger on some of these nuggets.
Jeffrey Toobin, let me go to you.
One of these scenes in this book according to what Jamie has is, you know, there's this John Dowd is convinced that Trump is going to perjure himself if he testifies in front of the special counsel, Bob Mueller. He does this mock interview with the president which according to Woodward the president fails this. Still, though, the president wants to testify and at some point he says, what, do you think I was struggling? He was because he failed the test. So Dowd and Jay Sekulow go over to Bob Mueller with the goal to communicate to the special counsel that there's no way this president can testify because he is incapable of telling the truth. Why would they go to Mueller to explain that?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALAST: Well, it is peculiar at one level because you certainly wouldn't tell the prosecutor my client is about to lie to you, but I think it is just one of the many reasons why the lawyers for the president have basically been avoiding this whole issue of testifying before Mueller's investigation. They have nominally said they're negotiating, but I don't think anybody really believes this interview was ever going to take place. This is the president that the "Washington post" has said has told 4,000 lies since he has become president. The fact that he might not be a good witness is not shocking.
BALDWIN: But to hear, if from his own lawyers, Jeff Toobin, to go to Bob Mueller to explain this.
TOOBIN: There are no greater realists in the world than criminal defense lawyers. They are not starry eyed about their own clients. Now, admittedly it's unusual to say it to the prosecutor, but, still, if you're not going to testify any way, you're not really incriminating your client because he hasn't said anything to the lawyer -- to the prosecutors yet. I mean, it just underlines the fact that everyone around the president, his lawyers, obviously his chief of staff here, Gary Cohn, the economic adviser, they all think he's crazy. They all think he is not responsible. They think he is like a fifth-grade child. I mean, this is all shocking, but it's not surprising when we have heard inside accounts of how the president behaves in office.
BALDWIN: Right. Secretary Mattis saying he understands at a fifth or sixth grade level when they all got together last July at the pentagon trying to explain the importance of allies and diplomacy.
Gloria, your biggest take away?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I guess the biggest take away that I have is the extraordinary line from the Woodward book when he says that what was going on at the White House amounted to no less than an administrative coup d'etat. You have details of Gary Cohn, the former economic adviser, taking a paper off the president's desk about stopping a trade agreement with South Korea that he felt could endanger and others felt could endanger national security, so they basically took it off his desk and John Porter was complicity in this, the former staff secretary who then was asked to leave for other reasons, but you have this sense of people trying to save the presidency or save the president from himself or try and protect him from Bob Mueller, which is what -- you know, which is what they were -- which is what they were trying to do if that conversation took place with Mueller. You know, I was talking to an attorney with some knowledge of this today who said to me, look, very often you will go and you will talk to a prosecutor and say, you know, my client they really -- they can't -- they can't testify, they're too anxious, they're too nervous, they get too jumbled, they don't get their facts straight, you know, that happens sometimes. But what they had in this case was a president telling them according to Woodward and indeed according to a lot of our own reporting that he wanted to go mono-a- mono with Mueller because he didn't have anything to hide because there wasn't any so-called collusion because it's all a hoax and a witch-hunt and they had to try to convince the president that, in fact, he would be a terrible witness on his own behalf and that he should not testify before Mueller and they had the president saying to them, you know, politically I cannot do that. I need to testify. It would look terrible if I didn't. So you see the internal struggles going on in this White House and you see -- you get a sense of people trying to protect the presidency itself.
[14:56:40] BALDWIN: Makes you wonder how many people may or may not have jobs in the coming days depending on the president's reaction to this whole thing.
BALDWIN: Mr. Dean, your thoughts on all of this.
DEAN: Well, I agree. My most striking one is the example that you used --
BALDWIN: The great Cohn moment, the swiping of the memo.
DEAN: The swiping and the --
BALDWIN: Back and forth with Dowd and Sekulow.
BALDWIN: Follow up. Then when they take it to Mueller essentially saying he is a liar, we can't bring him to you Mueller then says I need the president's testimony. What was his intent on Comey? I want to see if there was corrupt intent. What does that tell you about the special counsel? Is that obstruction?
DEAN: Well, it tells you what he is looking at for sure but it also tells you he can't really finish his look unless he does probe a little bit and find out what was the real intent. I think he's got a lot of evidence of criminal intent, the Hester Holt interview, you know, the tweets are there, it's just all over. So he just wants to hear it out of the president's mouth, give him a chance to defend himself, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen.
BALDWIN: It doesn't, does it?
BALDWIN: John Dean, thank you.
Everyone, please stand by.
Much more on the stunning allegations out of this new book. Carl Bernstein is waiting in the wings. We are also watching the confirmation hearing day one, quite
contentious, of Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh there. His opening remarks moments away.