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Trump Faces Double Controversy in the White House; Idlib Freedom May Cause More Lives Lost; Indian Gay Community Celebrates; Trump Insider Writes Stinging New York Times Op-Ed; Trump Pick Faces Grilling On Capitol Hill; U.K. Charges Two Russian Spies In Nerve Agent Attack; Nike Unveils New Ad; Trump Touts His Twitter Prowess. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired September 6, 2018 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: The chaos in the White House explained and President Trump fighting back. An op-ed and a new book are giving an inside look at the turmoil shaking the Trump administration.
Plus, how Russian air striking target the city of Idlib once again. Fears are growing of a major humanitarian crisis for the last rebel stronghold in Syria.
And a historic win for gay rights in India, as the Supreme Court strikes down a controversial law that made homosexuality illegal.
Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. And this is CNN Newsroom.
Donald Trump is fighting back against another blow to his presidency, this time from within his own administration. An unnamed administration insider writing in the New York Times says he or she is part of a resistance working to protect the country from an ill- informed and immoral president.
Mr. Trump responded on Twitter saying this. "Does the so-called senior administration official really exist? Or is it just the failing New York Times with another phony source? If the gutless anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for national security purposes, turn him or her over to the government at once.
The commentary comes amid a firestorm at the White House over the new book "Fear" veteran journalist by Bob Woodward.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House on a witch hunt, as President Trump orders staff to find out who spoke to Bob Woodward for his upcoming book portraying a West Wing engulfed in chaos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The book means nothing. It's a work of fiction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Trump going after the veteran reporter, claiming Woodward just wants to sell books.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you look back at Woodward's past, he had the same problem with other presidents. He likes to get publicity and sell some books.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The president denying a claim in the book that he asked Defense Secretary James Mattis to assassinate the leader of Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I heard somewhere where they said the assassination of President Assad by the United States, never even discussed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Despite knowing about the book for months Trump claiming today it was time to disrupt the confirmation hearing for his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was put out to interfere, in my opinion, at this time with the Kavanaugh hearings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: But behind closed doors Trump telling allies he suspects his former national security advisor H.R. McMaster and his former economic adviser Gary Cohn talked to Woodward. As aides then says it was former employees who made the bombshell claims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think most of those probably come from some disgruntled former employees. And you have people like General Mattis, General Kelly, two American heroes come out and call the book pure fiction.
I would certainly rather take the word of those two individuals than a couple of disgruntled former employees that are anonymously attacking this president trying to make him look bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: But at least a dozen current and former officials told CNN they spoke with Woodward. Despite the administration's denials, Woodward telling CNN I stand by my reporting.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who once called Trump unfit for office, downplaying the revealing book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We should believe that Bob Woodward is a good reporter. You should take some of it with caution. The whole theme of the book is that President Trump can run hot and be volatile. Agreed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Graham's Democratic colleague Senator Dick Durbin voicing concern for the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I'm very worried about this president's stability, and his ability to make decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.
CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about this is CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. Always great to have you with us.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you.
CHURCH: So an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration claims in this New York Times op-ed to be part of a resistance working within the administration to thwart parts of the president's agenda. And his worst inclinations because of the author deems him a threat to the health of the nation. How significant is this? And is there any historical precedent for it?
BRINKLEY: There really isn't anything in history where you have somebody in the proximity of the president of the United States warning people in this kind of anonymous fashion that the president is a danger.
[03:05:58] Now, many people might wonder why doesn't this person put their name on the line? Maybe they will down the pike. But it may be more than one person. There may be a number of people in the White House.
There's a kind of resistance movement from within, letting the American people know that we're keeping an eye on the behavior of this president. The amount -- Donald Trump has been erratic, his tweets are often crazy.
And so they -- I think the signals coming from the anonymous article, there are people in the White House that are minding the store while we work through the Mueller investigation and the like.
CHURCH: Right. And of course, the overriding message from this bombshell op-ed, and from Bob Woodward's book, the portions we've seen at least, is that President Trump is not fit for office. Let me just read a section of that op-ed. "Given the instability many
witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis, so we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until, one way or another, it's over."
So Douglas Brinkley, instead of invoking the 25th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, these senior officials have opted to guide this administration until it's over one way or another, whatever that means.
Now, what do you make of that particular part? And also for the author, is this about being on the right side of history, do you think? What would be the possible motivation for basically outing themselves? Because this will eventually happen, right?
BRINKLEY: Well, back in 1947, we had a great American diplomat in the State Department named George Kennan. And Kennan wrote a piece called Mr. X. He did an anonymous thing, but he called himself Mr. X.
And it was called the sources of Soviet conduct when he was warning about the threat within the Soviet Union and what it would mean to Eastern Europe. And so, he kind of went a bit rogue. We see that happening now, except the threat that needs containing is the president of the United States.
So I think this anonymous person does want to be on the right side of history right now. But it's just another piece of evidence, along with the Woodward book and many other testimonials that Donald Trump's behavior is deeply sick and erratic.
And we haven't had this problem with the president of the United States, except for Richard Nixon during his last year in office when people would disregard what Nixon would say.
You know, Nixon would give an order to somebody in the foreign policy team and they say yes, sir, and then not carry it is out.
So there's clearly insubordination going on in the White House right now. I can understand why President Trump is angry about it, but his response was to charge this op-ed writer with treason and trying to do a witch hunt in the White House.
He's making the situation worse for him, because he can never take any kind of criticism for any source.
CHURCH: Right. And that wording, you know, they will guide this administration one way or another until it's over, what do you think that means, until it's over?
BRINKLEY: The 25th Amendment is quite a stark thing to do. It would mean the cabinet, including the Vice President Pence to start moving to say Donald Trump is unfit for office.
We're only weeks until a midterm election. The proper most likely way that Trump gets resolves, first Democrats wins Congress, and then they will start pushing for subpoenas and you will have the word impeachment that being bandied about and investigated. And that it may be that the people's House, Congress, Senate, in the end are the ones that Trump gave, Trump's presidency.
Remember, we have the Mueller report coming out. We already have convictions of people like Manafort and Cohen. More to come. So it is just a hot mess in Washington, D.C. and Donald Trump is at the center of it.
The U.S. government was built to last. We're going to be here for hundreds of years and beyond. The idea that Donald Trump can hijack it is sort of what this anonymous article is saying. There is a conscience within the White House that's keeping tabs on what he is doing. It's a bit spooky, but we live in strange times.
CHURCH: We appear to. Yes. Douglas Brinkley, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
BRINKLEY: Thank you.
CHURCH: We turn now to a huge victory for gay rights in India. The Supreme Court just struck down a law criminalizing consensual gay sex, scrapping legislation put in place by British colonizers nearly 160 years ago.
India's gay community has been pushing for the change, and waiting for this ruling. And in just a moment we will have a live report on that. We'll come back to that story in just a moment.
[03:00:56] Well, Paraguay is backtracking on its decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Back in May, Paraguay became the third country after the U.S. and Guatemala to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv.
But now Paraguay's new administration, which just took office last month, is reversing that move, citing the sensitivities of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The decision has angered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now closing Israel's embassy in Paraguay.
Well, the fate of Syria's last rebel stronghold hangs in the balance as airstrikes hammer Idlib province. Can a diplomatic effort prevent humanitarian disaster there?
And furious Iraqis protest government neglect, the fiery demonstrations in the country's oil hub. We'll have those stories and more when we come back.
CHURCH: All right. Let's return to that story we were bringing you, an historic win for gay rights in India. The Supreme Court just struck down a low that made homosexuality a crime.
No more, though. Our Nikhil Kumar joins us now from New Delhi with more. So Nikhil, let's start with the reaction across India to the Supreme Court's decision.
NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Rosemary, the reaction has been ecstatic. Everyone is smiling at the court. There were people gathered outside the courtroom waiting since early in the morning.
We only heard late last night that this morning is when the Supreme Court would bring this matter up for hearing and deliver the wording. We've been waiting for it for many, many months now.
The context here is that back in 2009, a lower court actually said that this provision, section 377 as its own, this colonial era law, that it was unconstitutional.
But then in 2013, a smaller bench of judges, two judges at the Supreme Court they said that actually no, it is constitutional, and it's up to parliament to strike it down. Ever since then, activists have been trying to bring it back to court to get other judges to hear it. That's exactly what happened.
Last year, the court said that privacy is a fundamental right, and we knew then that on the basis of that ruling, this would come at some point soon. And it happened this morning. People were cheering, people are just so happy, that they can finally be themselves.
The law carried a potential penalty of life in prison. Now you can imagine what that meant for millions, tens of millions of people who just couldn't be themselves. There was a law out there that said they couldn't be themselves, and that if they were themselves that if they embraced their identity, they could go to jail potentially for life.
[03:15:03] The signal from the country's highest court today is that no, it's OK to be yourself, and that nobody, the law cannot infringe upon your freedom, and that you can't be whoever you want to be. And that the law does not have any right interfering.
(Technical Difficulty) It's a momentous decision for millions, tens of millions, and in fact, hundreds of millions of Indians, because it establishes and puts an underline under this concept of personal freedom. Rosemary?
CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to Nikhil. Nikhil Kumar, joining us there from New Delhi. We're having just a few little technical audio problems with you there, but we certainly are covering that story.
Well, the hopes to avoid a humanitarian disaster in Syria may rest with a summit in Tehran Friday. Leaders from Russia, Turkey, and Iran will discuss the crisis in Idlib province, Syria's last rebel stronghold.
State media and an activist group said air strikes Wednesday targeted the western and southern edges of Idlib. A government offensive to retake the province is believed to be imminent.
So let's turn to our Fred Pleitgen, he joins us now from Syria's capital, Damascus. And Fred, let's start by what all is expected to come out of this summit in Idlib, hosted by Iran Friday? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes,
hosted by Iran and certainly the three major powers that are involved here in this conflict on opposite side the system how it's working together the Turks, the Iranians, and the Russians will have a lot on their hands.
And of course, one of the things they're trying to do, at least it seems the Turks are trying to do is avoid that offensive that you said, Rosemary, probably correctly, that seems to be imminent there in Idlib province. The big question is how that can be done.
Now the Russians are saying they want, Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the hard line Islamist group says on the ground there to be to be gotten rid of essentially in that area. It's quite interesting to have seen some of the rhetoric coming out of Moscow but also coming out of here out of Damascus over the past couple of days, the past couple of weeks.
With many leaders here, and they're saying that they believe that Idlib is what they call a hot bed of terrorism and something that needs to be dealt with very quickly.
Now one of the things that the Russians say their most recent air strikes dealt with, there's been drones that have been launched towards Russia's air base here in Syria that have been apparently trying to attack that air base and the Russians are saying they keep having to shoot those drones down. And that was one of the reasons why they conducted those air strikes.
But at the same time, you do have a massive military buildup by the Syrian army, around Idlib province, which is a huge area. Not only have large parts of Syria's military there, but you do have some of the most elite forces of Syria's military that have been battle hardened and many of the other big battles that we've seen here in this conflict including in Aleppo, including in the south of Syria including in the outskirts of Damascus.
So that is a very, very strong force that's there. At the same time, of course, at least the hard line rebels are saying they're not willing to give up, either. So it could shape up to be something to be very, very dangerous, with millions of civilians apparently still lack inside that area unable to get out.
So it's a huge responsibility that hangs on the shoulders, especially with those three leaders meeting in Tehran, but of course, of all parts who are involve in the conflict here in Syria, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Indeed. Fred, of course, the world is watching. We know that President Trump of the United States has warned President Bashar al- Assad that if he uses chemical weapons, there will be repercussions, and that the U.S. and its allies will reply with force.
So talk to us about that threat, and also the three million people that are in that area, what is the situation for them on the ground?
PLEITGEN: Yes. I mean, on the face of it, Rosemary it seems as though so far the warnings that have been coming from the United States are having no effect whatsoever on the ground here in Syria, neither with the Assad government nor any of its backers versus the Russians and the Iranians as well.
They are saying that it is something they feel they need to push forward with they say all of this could be imminent. And of course you have that conflict that you were just talking of possible chemical weapons attacks, and it's been very interesting to hear some of the bellicose rhetoric going back and forth between the United States and on the other side the Russians and the Syrian military with the Russians and the Syrian army and Syrian government saying they believe the rebels could launch (Technical Difficulty) to try and draw the Americans into attacking the Assad government.
Whereas, the Americans are saying they have absolutely no evidence to suggest that the rebels are trying to do that and obviously saying that they believe that it could be the Assad government that could launch such attacks.
Certainly it's something that seems both sides are very much aware of that could lead to a further escalation, not just on the battlefield here, but of course also between the big powers outside of Syria that have such a big role here, namely the United States and the Russians.
That's certainly something that all sides are aware of. As far as the civilians are concerned, it seems as though their fate now rests with those leaders that are going to be meeting there in Tehran tomorrow to try and hash something else.
[03:20:01] So certainly those people we are watching very closely, a lot of fear of course on the ground there in the province among those civilians, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Yes. We will certainly be watching that as you say. Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Damascus in Syria, where it is 10.20 in the morning there. Many thanks as always, Fred.
Public anger in Iraq's southern oil hub is turning deadly. Activist say Iraqi forces fired teargas and live ammunition at demonstrators in a third day of protests in Basra. Ben Wedeman reports on the growing fury against the government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The southern Iraqi city of Basra is in revolt. Its residents fed up with crumbling infrastructure, high unemployment, contaminated drinking water that has sent hundreds to hospital, and prolonged electricity cuts in a city that swelters in the summer. The protests also spurred on by anger at endemic corruption and official incompetence.
So far this week, security forces have killed at least six protesters, dozens of others, including police, have been injured. The discontent is even more intense since many of the troops that helped defeat ISIS came from Southern Iraq.
Is this the way they reward the people of Basra, demands protester, Fabio Lapose (Ph), by attacking with live ammunition?
Basra should be one of Iraq's wealthiest cities. It sits atop much of the country's oil wealth. But little of that wealth has been felt by the residents of this Iraq's third largest city.
The caretaker government in Baghdad already paralyzed since an inconclusive election more than four months ago has promised to address Basra's problems. But so far, only promises have reached the city.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for an immediate investigation into the killing of protesters, but he's also blaming the unrest on unnamed troublemakers.
There are parties that are pouring oil on the fire who are setting people against the security forces to jeopardize Basra's security, al- Abadi told reporters in Baghdad Tuesday.
Basra's many woes are fuel enough for this fire. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Well, South Korean president, Moon Jae-in will travel to Pyongyang later this month for a third meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. As details of that summit were ironed out hours ago, South Korea reveals that Kim wants to achieve denuclearization while President Trump is in office.
Now, Paula Hancocks joins us from Seoul with more details. And Paula, this has been surprising news and indeed welcome news certainly coming out with recent reports of souring relations between North Korea and the United States. That seems to have changed.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, we certainly had some interesting points made by the South Korean envoy who went to North Korea and spoke to Kim Jong-un. The national security chief, Chung Eui-yong was saying that Kim Jong-un said he has unwavering trust in the U.S. President's Donald Trump even though there have been recent difficulties, acknowledging that fact, but also saying that he was willing to have more active pushes towards denuclearization if his advanced steps were recognized by the U.S. and they were matching measures by the U.S.
Now, when he's talking about his advanced steps, he was specifying the destruction of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, which North Korea says is beyond use, although there international independent observers at the destruction at that point. Also talking about the missile engine test sites having closed that down, showing they have no intention of firing more missiles.
So, this is really the sticking point, the fact that Kim Jong-Un is saying he wants measures -- matching measures from the U.S. The U.S. has consistently said that they want denuclearization first and then they will give concessions. They will start lifting sanctions. So, it's a fundamental difference of opinion as to how these effects should take place and when these concessions should take place.
Other interesting things we found out today from the Blue House pointing out when President Moon spoke to President Trump, Tuesday night local time on the phone. President Trump actually asked Mr. Moon to pass a message to the North Korean leader for him. That was passed on through the South Korean envoy on Wednesday and apparently there's a message back as well from Kim Jong-un to Donald Trump, which will portrayed this evening local time. That's when Chung Eui-yong will speak to his U.S. counterpart, John Bolton.
[03:25:11] So there's certainly communication between the two, although at this point, it's still going through South Korea.
CHURCH: All right. Watching the twists and turns there of the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea, and of course, what is happening on the Korean Peninsula. Paula Hancocks, joining us live from Seoul in South Korea, many thanks.
For a country that has already dealt with deadly floods, typhoons, heat waves, and landslides, this year, Japan can't seem to take a break. Yet, another natural disaster has struck. This one, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake on the northern island of Hokkaido, at least four people have been killed and a number of homes were buried by landslides. The quake also collapsed roads and knocked out power to really three million homes.
Time for a short break now. When we come back, a witch hunt in the White House, why president trump is so rattled with his own staff. Plus, ducking and dodging on Capitol Hill. More on the questions President Trump's pick for the Supreme Court would and would not answer.
CHURCH: A very warm welcome back. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour. India's gay community and supporters are celebrating a huge legal victory. The Supreme Court struck down a law criminalizing consensual gay sex, scrapping a law put in place by British colonizers nearly 160 years ago.
President trump is calling for "The New York Times" to turn over the anonymous insider who wrote a scathing commentary on his presidency. The paper says the essay comes from a senior Trump administration official who claims to be part of an internal resistance. It calls the president amoral, reckless, and ineffective.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is demanding to know who spoke to journalist, Bob Woodward, for his new book about the White House. It quotes, "Administration officials calling the president an idiot, a liar, and unhinged." Mr. Trump says the book is a work of fiction.
Joining me now from Los Angeles, Michael Genovese is the president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. Thank you so much for being with us.
MICHAEL GENOVESE, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL POLICY INSTITUTE: Thank you.
CHURCH: So an unnamed senior official claims to be part of a resistance working within the trump administration and writes an explosive op-ed revealing a repulsive, petty, reckless and ill- informed president who poses a threat to the nation.
[03:30:06] And this comes a day after portions of Bob Woodward's book reveals something that Trump officials think President Trump is an idiot, a liar, and worse. The overriding message here, this President is not fit for office. How concerned should we be, and is this a watershed moment for the President?
MICHAEL GENOVESE, PUBLIC ANALYST: Well, coming on the heels of the release of the book "Fear," or the excerpts of it, this is a devastating one-two punch. And it's devastating in part because "The New York Times" editorial was not from the deep state that the President's been criticizing, it's from an insider, someone the President himself chose. And so it's a high official that he picked, who is now saying what we've heard rumblings of before, well, will stay in the White House, because we need to protect the country from the excesses of the President.
This is the first time we've had something that really is hard hitting and direct, that goes right to the heart of the presidency, and challenges him on some of the key variable of leadership, he is anti- Democratic, he is reckless, he's behavior is unstable, he throws tantrums. So you see a whole series of criticisms against this President coming from someone who works for him.
CHURCH: And the author of this op-ed reveals there were whispers within the cabinet who invoked the 25th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but instead they chose this group of people, these senior advisers chose to steer the administration in the right direction until, one way or another, it is over, their words. What do you make of that?
GENOVESE: The only other time we've actually had serious discussions of invoking the 25th amendment, which was only passed in the 1960s, was during the Reagan years, right after the Iran contra story broke when President Reagan became a bit paralyzed and they couldn't shake him out of this lethargy. And they said, you know, what are we going to do? If he stays like this, we have to do something. So they discussed the 25th amendment, they ruled it out because Nancy Reagan intervened and got her husband back on track.
That is a very unusual thing to do. Very difficult to do, because it's the inside of your administration doing it to your inside or president. And so that would mean that Mike Pence would have to lead this majority of the cabinet that we have to vote on it and then certainly Donald Trump would count which would mean it would go to the Congress for a decision, Republican Congress. And so it would probably provoke the constitutional crisis. So, we are better off not going there until we really have to.
CHURCH: You are right and this group or this author, and whoever is involved seems to agree with your assessment of that. So what do you think the motivation is for writing an op-ed like this? Is it about being on the right side of history? Or is it something else and who do you think the author may be? Because that may determine the motivation.
GENOVESE: Well, I would much preferred the author signing it, letting us know who it is, but I understand if you believe that you're doing god's work basically by protecting the country from your own President, and maybe you need to be an insider and therefor an anonymity was important. Who was it? Who might it be? Maybe General Mattis. Could be Mattis, he is been critical of the President. And in Bob Woodward's book, he has some very harsh thing to say about the president. We don't really know. And perhaps we never will, but my guess is, that is someone who number one, is trying to do a public service, but number two, and also wants to be on the right side of history when that is written.
CHURCH: yes, and of course the President is fighting back, calling Bob Woodward's book a work of fiction and the op-ed gutless and treason. And the President is hunting down the author of this op-ed. This is what he tweeted late Wednesday. The so-called senior administration official really exist or is it just the failing "New York Times" with another phony source? If the gutless anonymous person does indeed exist, "The Times" must, for national security purposes, turn him or her over to the government at once. So the President calling for "The New York Times" to turn over its source. So your reaction to that?
GENOVESE: We don't do that in this country. We don't turn people over to the government, because they criticized it. I think the President was way out of line on that. Look, nobody wants to be criticized. The President has a very thin skin, but it goes with the job. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. The President though wants thus really to find out who did this, he wants to make an example of that person saying we're going to basically string you up and show everyone around the White House that if strike across the President, you will meet the same fate.
The problem is, so many people around the President and within his own party don't have the kind of loyalty or affection or support for the President that he demands. And consequently, the President is going to be demanding support from people who are unlikely to respond to him.
[03:35:05] CHURCH: It is not going to be a nice place to be, we think in the next the next few days at the White House. Michael Genovese, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.
GENOVESE: Thank you, Rosemary.
CHURCH: And a lot of furry on Capitol Hill, Wednesday. 66 protesters were removed from the confirmation hearing for President Trump Supreme Court nominee. Brett Kavanaugh faced 12 grueling hours of pointed questions from lawmakers. Our Jessica Schneider reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO) JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The President's Supreme
Court pick repeatedly refusing to answer questions pertains to the power of the presidency.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can a sitting President be required to respond to a subpoena?
BRETT KAVANAUGH, NOMINATED AS UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: I can't give you an answer on that hypothetical question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump claimed he has an absolute right to pardon himself. Does he?
KAVANAUGH: It's a question, therefore it's a hypothetical question that I can't begin to answer in context as a sitting judge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President have the ability to pardon somebody in exchange for a promise for that person that they wouldn't testify against him?
KAVANAUGH: Sir, I'm not going to answer hypothetical questions of that sort.
SCHNEIDER: Refusing to answer hypotheticals is common for judicial nominees who insist they can't answer questions about possible future cases, but Judge Kavanaugh did praise the 1974 decision U.S. V. Nixon when the court ordered President Nixon to comply with a subpoena from a special prosecutor for tapes and documents and ruled those were not protected by executive privilege.
KAVANAUGH: The court stood up for judicial independence in a moment of national crisis.
SCHNEIDER: Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly asserted he would be an independent arbiter on influence by politics.
KAVANAUGH: We make decisions based on law, not based on policy, not based on political pressure, not based on the identity of the parties, no matter who you are in our system. No one is above the law in our constitutional system.
SCHNEIDER: The committee's top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein pressed Kavanaugh to uphold Roe v. Wade, but he did not directly answer.
SEN DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: I don't want to go back to those death tolls in this country. And I truly believe that women should be able to control their own reproductive systems, within obviously some concern for a viable fetus.
KAVANAUGH: I understand how passionate and how deeply people feel about this issue. I understand the importance of the issue. I understand the importance that people attach to the Roe v. Wade decision to the Planned Parenthood versus Casey decision. I don't live in a bubble. I understand, I live in the real world. I understand the importance of the issue. SCHNEIDER: Democrats also focused on Kavanaugh's time in the George
W. Bush White House, asking what he knew about controversial interrogation techniques on accused terrorists and warrantless surveillance.
KAVANAUGH: I was not read into that program. Not involved in crafting that program, nor crafting the legal justifications for that program.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever raise questions about warrantless surveillance?
KAVANAUGH: I can't rule anything out. There was so much going on in the wake of September 11.
SCHNEIDER: Some Democrats attacked Kavanaugh's credibility, questioning whether he knew he had received strategy information stolen from Senate Democrats in 2003.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: I am concerned, because there is evidence that you were provided you with materials that were stolen from me. And that would contradict your prior testimony.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Did you ever knowingly participate in stealing anything from Senator Leahy or any other Senator?
GRAHAM: Did you ever know that you were dealing with anything that was stolen property?
SCHNEIDER: All this leading Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to lament what he says has become an overly politicized process of Supreme Court picks with protests erupting in the hearing room.
GRAHAM: We live in unusual times as I do. You should get more than 90 votes, but you won't. And I am sorry it has gotten to where it has. It's got nothing to do about you. I just wish, if we could have a hearing where the nominee's kids could show up, is that asking too much? So what kind of country have we become?
SCHNEIDER: Judge Kavanaugh did clarify that he is not, in fact, taken a position on whether a sitting President can be indicted as a constitutional matter.
[03:40:05] He said in his 1999 article arguing against it was only a matter of policy and then said he would keep an open mind if the issue came before the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh also refused to commit to recusing himself if any issues of criminal or civil liability for the president came before the Supreme Court. Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEO) CHURCH: Austin Dove is a criminal defense attorney and former
prosecutor. Thank you so much for joining us.
AUSTIN DOVE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AND FORMER PROSECUTOR: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
CHURCH: So day two of the hearings, and Judge Brett Kavanaugh receive a grilling from the Democrats and softball questions from the Republicans, but didn't answer many questions at all as we saw there, exactly as you expected?
DOVE: Exactly as I expected. I mean, he is kind of picking up a trend that we've seen happen with these kind of hearings. Lessees more, he knows that the questions are going to be agendized (ph) on either side so that the Republican will ask when and where Democrats will another the recovery questions that come out when something, you know, daunting maybe put out there. So, he was thoughtful and probably as a person in his position should be, given the scope and importance of this selection.
CHURCH: Now the biggest issue for most people as they watch this hearings is abortion. What do you think Kavanaugh revealed he might do when it comes to Roe v. Wade? And what are you are guided by when you look at some of his pass writings and his past efficient?
DOVE: Well, you see that the very, very conservative bend consisting with, maybe some signs that he might go toward either chipping away apart of Roe v. Wade or maybe outright reversing Roe v. Wade. What's going to happen, is there will be a test case or two that will come through the system from different states, maybe Michigan or South Dakota or another state that would authorize a ban on abortion or wider restrictions on abortion. It will work its way up through the system. The Supreme Court will cherry pick which one of those cases to take. And then once they take one of those cases on, they will decide how, which one of that case are they going to make a decision about. They are going to be very careful to keep some parts of the precedent intact, but while they will be careful on that and they will strategic in selecting the parts of the, would want to undermine dismantle or change. So that is what we are going to see. It is going to depend on those test cases. We've seen it in other context, affirmative action and other voter rights issues coming up before the Supreme Court. So they'll be tactful about it and then they will separate and parse it out. And that is how precedent often made in ways that could be very far reaching.
CHURCH: Yes, and of course there are other issues, whether a President can pardon himself or whether a sitting president can respond to a subpoena or be indicted. Again, Kavanaugh not very forthcoming, but should he be answering questions like that as a future Supreme Court justice?
DOVE: I think he is playing dodge ball very, very effectively. Those are important questions, but what you have to rely on as the questioning Senators did, on the committee, is his past work, his past writings. That tells us a great deal about ways that he tend to lean, what he is going to do. These are important issues, they're hot button issues, but the way that you can really predict where he is going to go, and it's very, very clear from the writing, you pointed out one or two of them previously, where he'll go with this is quite obvious. And it's going to be a big, big swing in the pendulum now with courts composition the way it is now, and this additional member very likely that you can confirm with that, and so then it's going to be other parts of the institution to figure out what can come up and when. And then how the responses are on the ground level.
CHURCH: Austin, thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.
DOVE: My pleasure.
CHURCH: All right. We'll take a short break here. But still to come, Nike facing reaction to its ad campaign featuring a controversial quarterback. Why President Trump feels the need to weigh in. We are back with that in just a moment.
[03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHURCH: Five people have been arrested, in India in the brutal rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in (inaudible) Kashmir State. Among the accused, the girl's stepmother and stepbrother. CNN's Alexandra Field is following this story and joins me now live from Hong Kong. Alex, the details are horrifying. How to comprehend, what all are you learning about this heinous crime, and what will likely happen to the perpetrators?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Rosemary, police have released those details, calling them horrific and bone chilling. These are the people who investigated a report of a missing girl, a 9-year-old reported missing by her father about a week before her body was found. Investigators say, they found her dumped in the bushes, her body covered with branches and leaves. They say she had been strangled, gang raped, attacked with a knife and an axe, and then had acid poured over her body. A truly horrific crime scene that police discovered.
They say that they have arrested five people, all five of the accused, and that they include her stepmother and her stepbrother, along with three others. They say the gruesome attack was motivated by a family feud. Certainly the horrific details here are garnering reaction, this from the commissioner for women in Deli. (Inaudible) the chairperson of that commission writes, this is the most painful and horrific incident ever. These men are a disgrace on humanity and need to be given the death penalty urgently. One after the other, little girls are being brutally raped with no action from the government.
Earlier this year, India took steps to strengthen its penalties for rape making the offense of the rape of a child under the age of 12, punishable by the death penalty. But certainly, Rosemary, we've seen several times this year national outrage erupting in response to sexual violence, particularly cases of rape that have garnered national attention and a lot of media attention, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Exactly, Alex, we hear too many of these stories, and it keeps happening. And the government doesn't appear to be doing anything. What has been the reaction to this across the country? And what will likely happen here with these perpetrators?
FIELD: Well, there's a range of ages of the people who are involved in this case. This is both a rape and murder case. So while you do have a strengthen law that says the death penalty can be enacted in cases where a child under the age of 12 is raped, you also will have murder charges that will be face by the people involved in this case presumably.
Now the specific charges have not yet been released, but we know that they have arrested five people. This will now have to proceed to the court system. So we will see how they are charged and what charges each person here does faces. Again, police are saying that this is something that was motivated by a family feud. But Rosemary, you just can't ignore the fact that we have seen over and over again these cases of extreme and brutal sexual violence against children, not just women, not just adults in India, and that you have more and more women as activists and women's rights groups along with others across who are saying that more needs to be done, that it's not just a matter of strengthening laws, that you have to talk about how to enforce these laws to in order to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place.
[03:50:28] CHURCH: That is the problem, it is the policing here. Many thanks to Alexandra Field bringing us up to date on this dreadful story. I appreciate that.
Well, two Russian nationals have been charged by British authorities for trying to assassinate a former Russian double agent and his daughter last March. Police say these two men traveled to Britain using aliases and stayed at a London hotel. Surveillance video shows they took two train trip to Salisbury and then flew back to Moscow. The European arrest warrant was issued in case either man leaves Russia and travels to Europe. Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, where in Salisbury and nearly died from exposure to a toxic nerve agent called Novichok.
Now we take another quick break, but still to come, he has a way with words, he would even say the best word, but should Donald Trump be compare with Earnest Hemingway? We will have a look at that when we come back.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, Colin Kaepernick hasn't played in a U.S. Pro football game since 2016, but you can see him on Thursday night in the National Football League season opener. The controversial quarterback appears in a new ad campaign for Nike called dream crazy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN KAEPERNICK, NFL 49ER'S PLAYER: Don't just become a tennis player. Become the greatest athlete ever. Yes. That is more like it. So don't ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if you're crazy enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The decision to feature Kaepernick has some people burning their Nike gear. President Trump tweeted, the company is getting killed with anger and boycotts, but others are defending Kaepernick and the sportswear company.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that over the last 20 years, the best summary whether a company should enter politics is what Michael Jordan said. He said that Republicans buy sneakers too, saying that we should politicize sports. I think that was the right demeanor for a company over the last 20 years. Unfortunately, sports have been politicized. And I think that Washington and the White House have made it very difficult to stay out of the fray here. So I'm not sure companies really have a choice any more. So they've weighed in. I would argue that it is a risk. There's some downside here, but it's a good risk. People have a history favors individuals not based on their beliefs, but on their conviction. And I think you would be hard pressed to deny that Mr. Kaepernick hasn't incurred a pretty substantial cost here. So I would argue that this is a good risk. The athlete every brand wishes they endorsed, Muhammad Ali, stripped of his medals and 20 years later was asked to light the Olympic flame in Atlanta. I think this was a good bet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[03:55:00] CHURCH: Kaepernick sparked controversy during the 2016 NFL season when he got down on his knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and social injustice. He is suing the league alleging he was blacklisted, because of the protests.
Well the great American author Earnest Hemingway once said there is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man, true nobility is being superior to your former self. Might be good advice perhaps for Donald Trump, the man who calls himself the Earnest Hemingway of Twitter. Jeanne Moos has that report.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Would Hemingway be amused or would he be catty about it? In Bob Woodward's new book, President Trump compares himself to one of America's greatest writers. While lamenting Twitter's switch from 140 to 280 characters, the President is quoted as saying it's a bit of a shame, because I was the Earnest Hemingway of 140 characters. As sure as the sun also rises, so did the spoofs. And imagine Trump tweet, the sun also rises should only set. Earth laughing at it, getting sunlight for free, I will change. And how do we know that line out of Woodward's book is true? Because the President himself has said the same thing on camera. It was almost three years ago --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody said, I'm the Earnest Hemingway of 140 characters. Can you believe that?
MOOS: Some couldn't. I've read Hemingway, and you, sir, are no Hemingway. The hybrid app Trump Hemingway became a Twitter account posting tweets such as I like any bulls who like me. It is true that both men seemed partial to bull. Instead of a farewell to arms, someone tweeted a farewell to Namibia, referencing the time.
MOOS: President Trump mispronounced Namibia's name. The quote, somebody said I'm the Earnest Hemingway of 140 characters even ended up on a pillow and was repeated by former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowsky.
COREY LEWANDOSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He is the Earnest Hemingway of Twitter.
MOOS: Hemingway's heyday was long before Twitter. President Trump has likewise been known to write deceptively, when he bangs out those tweets, in Earnest. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
CHURCH: And there we leave you. Thanks for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me any time on Twitter @rosemarycnn. The news continues now with Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN. Have a great day.