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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Kavanaugh and Accuser Testify in Public Monday; Interview with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired September 17, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight with what seemed to be all but a done deal, which is now anything but and the White House's response.

A confirmation process for the president's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is in question tonight after details came to light about an alleged attack that a woman says haunted her for years. A professor in California, Christine Blasey Ford, has gone public with the allegation that Kavanaugh, when they were both teenagers, physically and sexually assaulted her. Her lawyer says she took and passed a lie detector test early in August, though obviously that's not admissible in court.

Kavanaugh says it's a completely false allegation, that it never happened. Both he and Ford say they were willing to talk about this with the Senate Judiciary Committee and late today, we learned that's going to happen, one week from today in a public hearing. So while all of that was going on today, this was the message from the White House this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored. I think the Senate is headed to a reasonable approach in that it seems to me, in speaking to a few senators, including Senator Lindsey Graham, that allowing this woman to be heard in sworn testimony, allowing judge Kavanaugh to be heard in sworn testimony about the these specific allegations would be added to the very considerable mountain of evidence and considerations that folks will have when they weigh whether or not to vote for Judge Kavanaugh to be on the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, Kellyanne Conway there saying an accuser, this woman, should not be insulted and should not be ignored, certainly a reasonable response to a very serious allegation. What's so interesting about the response is that it's not been the typical line in the past when there are accusations against someone who's an ally of the president, not to mention accusations against the president himself. In fact, the president's remarks today were also measured. He defended Kavanaugh, but also says that the process has to play out and, quote, if it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's an outstanding intellect and an outstanding judge respected by everybody. Never even had a little blemish on his record. At the same time, we want to go through a process. We want to make sure everything is perfect, everything is just right. I wish the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner, because they had this information for many months.

I have great confidence in the U.S. Senate and in their procedures and what they're doing and I think that's probably what they're going to do. They'll go through a process and hear everybody out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Procedures, process, let's hear everybody out.

Now, this is not what we're used to hearing from the president. In the case of Rob Porter, his former aide accused of domestic abuse by at least three women, including his two ex-wives, the president said it was, quote, obviously a tough time for Rob Porter. The president said he hoped he had a great career ahead of him and wished him well and that Porter said he was innocent.

Then there was Senate candidate Roy Moore, an accused child molester, accused of pursuing teenage girls when he was in his 30s. The president endorsed him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, is an accused child molester better an a Democrat?

TRUMP: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. If you look at what is really going on and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn't happen. And you know, you have to listen to him also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Then there was the president's response to the allegations against Bill O'Reilly. In April of 2017, "The New York Times" broke the story that five women had made sexual harassment claims against O'Reilly and the president praised O'Reilly as, quote, a good person and didn't believe he did anything wrong. Believe the man, believe the denial. That was certainly the president's message when more than a dozen women accused him of everything from groping to sexual assault.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Right now, I am being viciously attacked with lies and smears. It's a phony deal. I have no idea who these women are. The stories are total fiction.

Oh, I was with Donald Trump in 1980. I was sitting with him on an airplane. And he went after me on the plane. Yes, I'm going to go after -- believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you. Man! You don't know. That would not be my first choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, in that case, the woman who accused him was apparently not in the now president's estimation attractive enough to sexually assault. The president also threatened to sue every one of his accusers for defamation. That hasn't happened. It seems to be the president's go-to response. Believe the man, and above all else, deny.

Bob Woodward writes in his book, "Fear," about a conversation between the president and a friend who acknowledged some, quote, bad behavior toward women. The friend was not named, but according to the book, the president said, and I quote, you got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women. So, why all of a sudden with his choice for the Supreme Court under fire are the president and the White House talking about a process playing out and hearing out the accuser?

[20:05:05] That's, frankly, just not clear. Could be they truly believe she should be heard. Could be because they're concerned about the midterms. There's new CNN polling showing Democrats have an advantage in races in two states, Tennessee and Arizona, that are critical to Democrats taking control of the Senate. Could be they're concerned about women or given the president's track record, at least about how they'll vote in the midterms in 2020.

In any event, the president finds himself in another she said/he denied situation with another person he's championed, one that will play out in front of the American public one week from today. A late statement from the White House reads, and I quote: Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him.

Joining me now is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Judiciary Committee.

So, Senator, the public hearing next week, both Ford and Kavanaugh, going to be under oath when they speak to you. If Ford stands by her accusations and Kavanaugh continues to say they're completely false, how exactly can you determine what the truth is?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Your question, Anderson, points exactly to the need for a full and fair FBI investigation before there is a hearing. Otherwise, we're going to be asking those questions in the dark. We'll be shooting, in effect, blindfolded.

We need the FBI to interview these witnesses under oath, and not just Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, but also other witnesses who should be at this hearing as well, like Mark Judge, who was the other person in the room. So, that is precisely why this hearing should take place only after the FBI investigation. And the vote in the committee and on the floor of the Senate should be delayed until there can be a full, fair process here.

COOPER: We should say, the other person who was allegedly in the room, according to the accuser. Who do you think has the burden of proof here? Ford or Kavanaugh?

BLUMENTHAL: To talk about a burden of proof is to analogize it to a trial. Here we're making a choice about the next Supreme Court justice, whose integrity and qualifications really have to be established. And this claim -- and by the way, I believe Dr. Ford, this survivor. There's every reason to believe her. She has come forward knowing that she faces a nightmare of hostile and probably vicious scrutiny.

There's every reason to disbelieve Judge Kavanaugh after his evasive and seemingly misleading responses at the testimony last week. I believe that we need to look very carefully about the qualifications of this nominee, based not only on what Dr. Ford has to say, but also those questions about how he will effect real people, their real lives in real time, when he takes a position that Roe v. Wade can be overturned, that the Affordable Care Act can be struck down by the president, unilaterally, that consumer rights and working rights can be abrogated, not just now, but for decades, generations to come.

And I believe that this nominee should be opposed by my colleagues. I hope my Republican friends and colleagues will step forward and speak out and ask for a truly full, fair investigation by the FBI before a hearing.

COOPER: Well, who determines whether there's an FBI hearing before the investigation and who determines whether those people or anybody else who may have knowledge or who's been accused would actually testify?

BLUMENTHAL: The chairman of the Judiciary Committee has the gavel. But I hope that he'll listen to his colleagues because he would do a disservice to Judge Kavanaugh, as well as Dr. Ford, and the members of the Senate and the American public if he rushes to judgment here without an investigation. And it will cast a shadow and a stain on Judge Kavanaugh, if he is confirmed, as a result of this broken process that shattered the norms. It will cast a shadow on the Supreme Court as an institution.

COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, I appreciate your time.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: Joining me now, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist, Kirsten Powers, CNN political commentator and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Amanda Carpenter, and Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director with Judicial Crisis Network.

Kirsten, the fact that there's now going to be this public hearing on Monday, where both Judge Kavanaugh and Ford will be able to testify under oath, it's obviously a hugely significant development. What are your concerns? KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, I think the concerns, you

know, the he said/she said aspect of this, that it's just going to be two people basically disagreeing with each other. It's not going to be a real investigation. We're not going to hear from anybody else who could corroborate this, who could, you know, somehow offer a different perspective.

So, look, I think that if we knew for a fact that this happened, then I don't think he should be on the Supreme Court.

[20:10:03] And I've said this before. I think -- I've heard some people saying, well, he was 17 and he was drunk and people change and -- I don't disagree with that. I think that people can do bad things when they're 17 and they can go on and lead, you know, very good lives and be contributing members of society.

But the Supreme Court is such a rarefied area in our country and I do think that it would send a terrible message to teenagers to say, well, as long as you end up being a good member of society, you know, we'll look the other way if you do something like this in high school. And so, the question then becomes, did he do it? And I don't think we're going to be any closer to knowing for sure whether or not he did it because of this hearing.

COOPER: Carrie, I mean, as a supporter of Judge Kavanaugh and his nomination, should there be an FBI investigation before this hearing on Monday and should other people also be testifying at this hearing?

CARRIE SEVERINO, CHIEF COUNSEL AND POLICY DIRECTOR, JUDICIAL CRISIS NETWORK: Well, I think the demands for an FBI investigation don't make a lot of sense to me. My understanding, the FBI have said, we're not going to do any other investigation. They have added it to his background file. They said, there is no crime alleged here. That's not our position to do.

I think what we're seeing is a pattern of attempted delay by the Democrats that really started since before Judge Kavanaugh was even nominated. And every time something else has come up, they've said, that's the reason to delay.

Should she be given a chance to be heard? Absolutely, she should be respected, as Kellyanne Conway and the president have said. Should this be allowed to delay the process indefinitely? Of course not. We're going to have a hearing. We'll hear both sides of the story.

And then, as happens in any kind of dispute like this, the senators will simply have to decide who they find more credible and then they will move forward.

But this shouldn't be a -- the political bludgeon that it's being used as. Senator Feinstein's behavior in intentionally delaying, not doing her own investigation, not letting the FBI do any investigation, if there were one to do, all of this time just suggests to me she didn't even think it was credible or significant or relevant. She thought, this is great political fodder, and that isn't doing respect to MS. Ford or to Judge Kavanaugh. COOPER: Amanda, is this about, do you think, the Democrats just

trying to delay?

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: I mean, here, listen. Republicans are understandably frustrated with the timing issue here. But arguments about timing are not persuasive, because everyone is committed to holding a public hearing. And so, the attention should be focused on making sure that's productive.

Frankly, I do think a public hearing is warranted. I am deeply concerned with how this is going to play out. The idea of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley grilling this woman on national TV, I don't think, is going to be a good outcome. People should go review the Senate's handling of Anita Hill when she was questioned, then Senator Joe Biden presided over those hearings.

It didn't go well for him. People said they regretted the deeply personal and probing questions they asked her on the national stage. And so, some people have made the recommendation that they have professional staff handle these questions. Republican senators should really consider turning their time over to someone who will handle it in a professional, courteous manner.

Otherwise, you know, if no further information comes out between now and next Monday, this is going to be a non-productive circus.

COOPER: Well, Kirsten, the idea that any Republican senator or any senator cannot ask questions in a courteous, professional manner, that's alarming, I would think.

POWERS: Well, I think it's just -- it is the optics of you're going to have mostly men, on the Republican side, all men, asking this woman questions and it is reminiscent of the Anita Hill hearings, of the fact that, you know, I'm going to guess -- I'm not going to guess, I can tell you that I've talked to plenty of Republicans, and they don't believe her, right? So that's going to come through.

They believe that this is a character assassination, that this is the Democrats scheming to delay and -- which I don't think there's any evidence that that's what led this woman to make this accusation back in 2012, to her therapist. But that that is what they believe. And so, I think that Amanda's right. I think there's a very high likelihood that it's not going to go very well for them.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. I want to continue this conversation. It's an important one.

Also, what we know about the woman who didn't want her name on the story originally, but ultimately decided she had no other choice.

And later, the latest on rising floodwaters, the rising death toll from the storm that used to be hurricane Florence. The governor of North Carolina saying it is a monumental disaster, an epic storm that is still continuing, the rivers still rising. We'll have the latest from the ground.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:18:50] COOPER: The breaking news tonight, both Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who's accusing him of physical and sexual assault will testify at a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Monday. The woman, Christine Blasey Ford, is a professor in California, training graduate students in clinical psychology.

Her allegation was first revealed anonymously last week. She went public yesterday. She said she didn't speak about the alleged incident for years, but described it in therapy sessions in 2012 and 2013.

According to the "Washington Post," she declined to speak on the record, as she struggled concerns about what going public would mean for her a her family and her duty as a citizen to tell the story.

Back Kirsten Powers, Amanda Carpenter, and Carrie Severino.

Carrie, I mean, the White House clearly seems to be taking a different tone here. As you mentioned, Kellyanne Conway, and I mentioned Kellyanne Conway saying the accuser shouldn't be ignored and the president saying, this should go through a full process. It's certainly different in the way that the president has discredited other accusers or talked about others.

What do you think -- do you think that's the right strategy for them to take and why do you think that is what they're doing now?

SEVERINO: I think they recognize that she does deserve a hearing. But I think it's interesting, some of the discussion earlier, people seem to be asking that there's an open hearing, yet one party be treated kid gloves.

[20:20:00] When we have seen the process that's happened so far in these hearings where there were the antics of Senator Spartacus Booker who was trying to show-boat during the hearings, 200-plus protesters standing up and being arrested, Senator Harris' really shameful attempts to try to edit his remarks and misconstrue what he was saying, as well as her fishing expedition, suggesting she had information that she didn't. If there's anyone I'm worried about misbehaving at the hearings, it's not the Republicans. They have been very respectful of the witnesses on both sides of the aisle during this and there were quite a few other witnesses.

I am very worried that this is going to turn into another is circus like we saw the previous hearings. That has something that has turned off the women Republican senators, like Senator Collins, who was very discouraged by seeing that process. Last week, she has seen threats to her own staff and herself to this process. This has turned very ugly politically and she's been very critical of Dianne Feinstein, how she's handled this, as well.

This is -- this is not the way that a real investigation and someone interested in finding out the results would handle it. This is how someone handles a last-minute attempt at character assassination.

COOPER: Amanda, clearly, these kind of hearings, you know, politics always plays a role in how each side questions witnesses.

CARPENTER: Yes. I mean, I think it would be a good idea for all senators to turn over the questioning to professional staff, do it all around. But I think it's important that we reflect for a moment on why credibility matters. Not just for Brett Kavanaugh, because Brett Kavanaugh -- listen, I'm a Republican. Republicans back Trump largely to get judges.

And now, Kavanaugh is hanging on. He needs credible people to defend him. And he has the White House, essentially, sidelined. People like Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders and all the Republicans that supported Roy Moore can say all they want. No one will take them seriously because they know they defended people who bragged about sexual assault on camera and had multiple accusers.

And so, they have no standing with the public. So this is why it matters that you back people for president and Senate races who have good character, because if you want to get good judges, you also need good people to get them through. And I bet Judge Kavanaugh right now wishes that he had the White House standing firmly behind him with the credibility that they should have.

COOPER: Kirsten, does the White House lack credibility on this because of the Roy Moore, Rob Porter?

POWERS: Yes. Well, I would say Republicans writ large lack credibility because they support a president who is on tape talking about doing all the things that he talked about. So, I don't -- and, yes, and many of them stood by Roy Moore.

So, I think that there is -- it's not so much, I think, that anyone thinks they're going to misbehave. I think there's just a problem a tone deafness and I think that -- and I think that that's probably going to come through. Maybe that won't happen. Maybe, suddenly, they'll be able to talk about this issue in a way that's not contemptuous of the person who brought this allegation.

Which I have said, look, this happened a long time ago. I think it's very, I'd say, dare say, almost impossible to fairly litigate this. And that's a real problem because you have somebody -- you know, our memories are very unreliable, as much as we'd like to think we remember everything perfectly, there's plenty of studies that show that that's not the case.

You know, it could be mistaken identity. We don't really know what happens. I'm inclined to believe her, right? I mean, we all can kind of look at it and decide what we want to decide.

I know plenty of people who say, I'm not inclined to believe it. I don't think he would do something like that based on what I know about him. So, the problem is, how do you fairly litigate that? And we do want to have a society that does fairly litigate these things and doesn't have somebody suffering from character assassination, because one person said something.

So, it is a really delicate balancing act here. And I think that's what Amanda and I are getting at is, are the Republicans up to that?

COOPER: Yes, Carrie, eyewitness -- to Kirsten's point, eyewitness testimony even from a recent incident is difficult -- you know, is -- in court, can be faulty, from something so far back is obviously even more difficult. Does that make it even more important that other people that are also -- anybody else that is alleged to have been in the room or alleged to have been told over the years, that they also testify?

SEVERINO: Well, look, part of the problem, and I think Kirsten's just exactly right, the nature of these allegations makes it very difficult to do, because this isn't something that there were a lot of witnesses to. She claims there were two witnesses and both of them deny it.

So, what we're looking at is looking way back, about allegations that, again, she didn't tell anyone for 30 years after the fact. So, you know, having even those testimony, that doesn't really tell us a lot. It's going to be inherently difficult to get at that.

But the reason we, you know, should or should not believe either of the witnesses isn't because president Trump tells you to and he has credibility, look at some of the other women, for example, who knew Kavanaugh at the time. You have a letter of 65 women who knew him through high school and through the years following, as well.

[20:25:05] They knew him at the time. They said, this is nothing like the Brett Kavanaugh we know. There are women there who dated him, including a woman who was dating him at the time of the evidence -- of the alleged incident. So this is -- there are people who can speak to whether this is credible at the time. And then we have to, you know, judge the witnesses and make our conclusions.

POWERS: But that also happens every time someone's accused. I mean, Roger Ailes had people coming out --

SEVERINO: We can't solve that, right.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: One at a time -- Kirsten?

POWERS: Everybody came out and said, you know, the Roger Ailes I know doesn't sexually harass, he never sexually harassed me. Well, guess what, he did sexually harass people.

So, you can actually be a great guy and do something like this. So I don't think that that necessarily is dispositive.

COOPER: To very quickly, Amanda, and then we've got to go.

CARPENTER: What it's going to come down to is it's clear that Brett Kavanaugh has made very firm assurances to senators like Senator Collins that nothing like this ever happened. So if anything else comes out, he's toast. But if he can maintain his integrity and nothing else comes out, I think he'll be confirmed.

COOPER: Kirsten Powers, Amanda Carpenter, Carrie Severino, thanks very much. Good discussion.

Up next, how Judge Kavanaugh is dealing this, how he plans to defend himself against the accusations. Also, should he be worried about his nomination? I'll talk our Supreme Court insider Jeffrey Toobin and Ariane De Vogue.

And also later, why this weekend, Donald Trump Jr. lied about this picture of me covering storms. We'll go into detail about it, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: If you're just joining us again, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and the woman who is accusing him of physical and sexual assault will both testify at a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Monday.

We'll get some insight in how this could play out. Joining me now, two people who know a lot about the nation's top court, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who's written bestselling books about the court, and CNN Supreme Court reporter, Ariane de Vogue.

How much trouble do you think Jeff the Kavanaugh nomination could be in?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think he's in a lot of trouble. But it doesn't mean he's not going to get confirm, but, you know, a tremendous amount will right on how the senators perceive him, how the senators perceive Ms. Ford, and, you know, how the public perceives them both.

COOPER: But doesn't it boil down to a -- I mean he said/she said?

TOOBIN: Not necessarily. See, that's one of the things that I find so frustrating about situations like this. You know, ultimately, a lot of trials, at least, they don't come down to, you know, if someone looks credible. They come down to the issue of corroboration. You know, are there other witnesses who back up their story? Are there documents?

Now, here we're see a dealing with a situation pre-cell phones, pre- internet, pre-you know, text messages. So you're not going to have that kind of evidence. But, you know, there was a lot of courtroom evidence before those things were invented. And we have a week, which is not a little time, but it's not a lot of time, but it can be done. And you know, there were four women -- four men at that party and two women. Who were they? Who was the host of the party? Why was she wearing a bathing suit? Was there a pool at the house? Do other people remember things?

I mean this is how trials are resolved. And this, at this point, is a lot closer to a trial than it is to a conventional hearing.

COOPER: Ariane, what's the latest you know about how Judge Kavanaugh is dealing with this, what his reaction was, and what his plan is for next week? Because he seem to volunteered to, you know, try to testify as soon as possible? ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, well I talked to somebody who knows him and who knows known him for a long time and they said he was flabbergasted by these allegations, and then when she did come forward, he vaguely did recall the name. She went by cristy in those days, but again, this was 30 years ago. He was in high school, right. And so he still vehemently denies it. He came out with a statement this morning he said, because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself.

What's interesting, Anderson, is that this morning, there was some media reports that there would be some scorched earth policy to come up against her, about her, and that did not happen. We've seen the focus, really, on Kavanaugh, his past as a judge, the fact that he did five background checks, his church, the community, even the President, in his comments today, he said he never even had a little blemish on his record. And now we've got this hearing, right? And keep in mind, Kavanaugh is familiar with this process.

Not only has he been there before, as a circuit court judge, he's been there for the Supreme Court. And when he worked in the White House, he worked on nominations. So you can expect him to be precise and definitive. But then you can expect her, she may not have corroboration at the time, but she's going to have this visceral, compelling story. And that's what we're going to see.

TOOBIN: But again, think about the facts. Apparently Brett Kavanaugh today said to Orrin Hatch, I wasn't at that party. Ms. Ford says, I can't remember which party it was. Well, what's going on here? I mean, what party was it? And how does he know he wasn't at a party, she's not even sure which one it was. I mean this is why you need to have an investigation. This is why the Democrats are trying to get the FBI involved and have them, you know, explore these circumstances, whereas the Republicans are saying, no, no, no, the congressional committee staff can handle the whole thing.

COOPER: It seems hard, though, to imagine, even that the FBI can figure out where there was a high school party 30 years ago.

TOOBIN: You know, it can be done.

COOPER: I guess you never know.

TOOBIN: I mean -- you know, and maybe it will fail. But the one thing is for sure, is that if you don't try, you won't succeed.

COOPER: But Ariane, that's only going to happen if Democrats agree to it.

DE VOGUE: Right. So, Senator Dianne Feinstein she said, I don't know about this hearing, I wasn't told about it before him, because she want something else. She wants the FBI to come in and to investigate. But keep in mind, the FBI and even the Department of Justice said tonight, look, they were brought in, their role was to provide information. Now, if the White House wants to ask them to do more, they could, they could. But so far, the White House doesn't. So it's an interesting process story that's going to play out. And Senator Dianne Feinstein is going to say, you know, maybe we shouldn't have hearings if the FBI is going to be investigating, should we be doing these calls, et cetera?

So you're really going to continue, as we've seen all along, from the beginning Brett Kavanaugh, have this fight about process.

TOOBIN: And by the way, one thing we haven't mentioned yet is the fact that every journalist in America or certainly a lot of them, and some very talented journalists are going to be applying themselves, and I happen to have a lot of confidence in our colleagues. And I think we will learn a lot from journalism about the surrounding circumstances over this week. And you know, that, too, will play into all of this.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Ariane De Vogue, thank you very much.

New pictures from the Cape Fear River where flooding remains very much a serious a problem. Just ahead we just got the latest from the region or at least 32 people have died as result of the storm.

[20:35:09] And later, I'll check in chef Jose Andres who's helped feed people during last year's devastating storms in Puerto Rico is now doing the same in the Carolinas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: At least 32 people now have died as a result of Hurricane Florence and its aftermath. The situation is still very dangerous nor parts of Virginia and the Carolinas. More than half a million people still without power in the Carolinas. North Carolina's governor calls it an epic storm that's still continuing, with the rivers still rising.

Miguel Marquez joins us now. What stood out to you today, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is only going to get more dangerous. We flew over the area south of Raleigh today and the expanse of it. I was about a mile west of where we flew over today, a little town called Wallace, North Carolina. Today we are about a mile and a half east of there. It's all water. It's a massive lake. I-40 itself, this major freeway that cuts through the state is now, part of it, at least, a major lake.

[20:40:00] It's incredible to see houses with water up to the rafters, chicken farms, hog farms, electric substations. It just -- it is devastating, the amount of water out there. This alone would cause a state to shudder and to have a hard time recovering from. And the problem is, what we're seeing right now is only the beginning. starting tomorrow, the rivers, the river that's feeding a lot of this, the Cape Fear River, but all its tributaries and all the creeks and everything else that feeds into it from the long creek to the Black River to the new river, all of them are going to start to gain, because water has -- rain has been falling up north from there, and they are going to start cresting Wednesday and Thursday and Friday at record levels.

And because the storm has passed, many people are trying to get back into their homes. Many people are getting back into their homes. And areas that were flooded or weren't flooded before are going to face new flooding all over again. This is -- it is a slow-moving disaster in the making. Authorities doing everything they can to get word out. Stay where you are for now, don't try to get back. Let's wait until all of this is through. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes, just -- it's unbelievable to see those aerial images that you got today, Miguel Marquez, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Chef Jose Andres is on the ground in North Carolina, where we just saw. The chef and his team at World Central Kitchen are feeding the hungry. They have a history of helping disaster zones. They served more than 3.5 million people in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria last year. Chef writes about that mission in the new book, "We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico one meal at a time." I spoke Jose Andres just before the broadcast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jose, your efforts there, first of all, how are they going? How many people have you been able to feed so far?

JOSE ANDRES, CHEF, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: I think by the end of today, we did 80,000 meals. We have two kitchens, one right here in Wilmington, another one in Raleigh. We have three more ready to go if we feel we need it. But you know, in Wilmington, we've been able to feed different counties, more than 20 shelters in the area. So, so far very happy of the response I see on the feeding front and all the help, all across the area, I'm able to be driving by every day.

COOPER: What's the biggest difficulty? Because, obviously, there's a lot of roads closed, trees are down, floodwaters are still rising.

ANDRES: Today, finally, we were able to see some blue sky, but obviously, the water keeps coming down the river. We've been feeding for the last three, four days, even through the hurricane. And we've been getting a lot of help from local sheriffs, local police, the U.S. Army. Yesterday, they send us two trucks, because we needed to send food to five shelters in Columbus County. We are not able to do it with our cars, but when the U.S. Army comes with their help, anything is possible.

COOPER: You tweeted on Saturday that you actually lost one of your trucks in the flooding. That the Cajun Navy actually had to come to your rescue. What happened?

ANDRES: We were with a local sheriff's department and we were bringing thousands meals to one of the shelters that was surrounded by water. And you know, when we began driving, there was not much water, and all of a sudden we make it into almost 5, 6 feet. And all of a sudden the entire truck began moving like a feather. We got -- we tilted and we almost kind of -- we had to stop driving, obviously. So the guys called, the Cajun Navy, they arrive within 30 minutes. I don't know how, because we were in the middle of nowhere.

And I was always dreaming about being with those guys on the water, watching them rescue so many Americans in need. I never imagine I would be rescued by the Cajun Navy. So those guys are really amazing.

COOPER: Just lastly, I want to get your thoughts on Puerto Rico for a moment. I know it's never far out of your thoughts. You've done so much work there. President Trump has again been giving himself praise in regards to response there after Hurricane Maria, saying the administration did a fantastic job and there was one of the best jobs that's ever been done. Also raising doubts about the death toll, that some 3,000 Puerto Ricans died in the wake of the storm.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on what you've been hearing from the President?

ANDRES: I think the game of the President, I think, is known by everybody. I think 51% of a leader is empathy. And I think we all need to help him to gain some empathy, because that's part of leadership. Obviously, we didn't do a good job in Puerto Rico, from the federal government, to the NGOs, to the local government. Overall, we failed the people of Puerto Rico. There are 3,000 dead, maybe more.

But listen, we're in the middle of a hurricane right now. Why he starts disagreeing with the official number that the governor already agreed to, let's concentrate in making sure that right here in Florence, North Carolina, South Carolina, we are taking care of Americans. It's not Republicans, it's not Democrats, it's Americans under one flag and they need help.

[20:45:07] That's what should be happening from our President. What I see in North Carolina, it's a different game. A total different game than what I saw in Puerto Rico. Here, the governor of North Carolina is doing an amazing job. The U.S. Army, the military, FEMA. The big NGOs, Red Cross, Salvation Army, everybody is in place. Wilmington Police. That's what should be -- that's what America is all about. And I'm so happy to see the response in Florence.

Obviously, nothing to do with the response I saw in Puerto Rico.

COOPER: Jose Andres, I'm glad you're there. Thanks so much.

ANDRES: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COPOPER: Well, in the introduction to Chef Andres, I said he and his crewed served more than 3.5 million people in Puerto Rico after Maria, I meant to say 3.5 million meals, of course big difference.

I want to check in Chris Cuomo to see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Chris? CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Love Chef Andres.

COOPER: Yes.

CUOMO: He's about all the right things. And I like that when it became political, which he didn't want it to be when he was in Puerto Rico, he took it, he literally put his head right down, he said, you want to have this fight, let's have it, because I know what's right. And he doesn't care about politics, you know that and getting to know him. Great interview, great reminder. It's just so terrible that he's need once again in such a big way there.

So, tonight, we're going to take on the Kavanaugh thing. You've teed it up for us perfectly. So it's about for us drilling down. What are the big questions? What is achievable in this Kavanaugh process? Is this the right forum for it? What do we know about the timing, both of the allegation and the disclosure by lawmakers? We're going to get into that with Michael Avenatti. And the story kind of slipped by about the President wanting to declassify FISA information.

Now, you and I, Anderson, we'll take all the information we can get all day long. But why they declassify matters and a red line may have been crossed, so we're going to get after it tonight.

COOPER: All right, about 13 minutes from now. Chris, thanks very much.

Coming up next, the President's son, Donald Trump Jr. this weekend tweeted a lie about me and hurricane coverage. The truth, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:51:12] COOPER: I rarely respond to online conspiracy theorists or cable news cranks looking to get into a mutually beneficial beef that will boost their ratings. I try not to argue with other TV anchors, and I usually let spear theorists go unanswered. For years, Alex Jones claimed that I didn't go to Sandy Hook after the shootings there and claimed an interview I did a grieving mother was instead done in front of a green screen in a studio somewhere with a crisis actor. I never really understood the logic of that one. I mean, I spend hours on planes each week flying all over the place to cover stories. Why wouldn't I drive two hours to cover an important story like the murders in Newtown?

Recently, I saw another online conspiracy theorist claim that the little boy I helped in Haiti who had been struck in the head a piece of concrete in a mob was actually a little child I was using a human shield to protect myself. I really don't even know what to say to that ridiculous idea.

Now, over the weekend, however, the son of the President, Donny Jr. tweeted out this picture of me in waist-high water and my camera crew a few feet away in higher ground in only a little bit of water. Donny Jr. was claiming it showed me in Florence faking the depths of floodwaters in order to somehow harm his father. And I quote from his tweet, stop lying to try to make @realDonaldTrump look bad, he wrote.

A guy named Gavin J. Smith, who I've never heard of, formerly with the Trump presidential campaign tweeted, quote, "Absolutely disgraceful, apparently Hurricane Florence wasn't devastating enough for CNN's Anderson Cooper, so he had to exaggerate for his live shot. Fake news at its finest."

Now, the picture has popped up in various memes alleging fake news. Some guy I've never heard of made a joke on Twitter, that I was on my knees in the water to make it look deep and then went on to say that I was used to being on my knees, which I assume is some sort of anti-gay reference, very classy.

Anyway, I've covered hurricanes for about 14 years and it really does make me sad to think that anyone would believe that I would try to fake something or overly dramatize a disaster. Now I debated whether I should even respond tonight to the President's son. I know he considers himself an outdoors man and pay a lot of money to be led to wildlife in Africa that he then kill, but I'm not sure if he's ever actually been to a hurricane or flood. I didn't see him down in North Carolina in the last few days helping out, lending a hand, but I'm sure he was busy doing something important besides just tweeting lies.

Anyway, in the interest of honesty and transparency, here's what these pictures actually show. I don't know who took them or what their motivation was, here's what was actually happening. Number one, this was not Hurricane Florence. This was taken 10 years ago during Hurricane Ike. On September 13th, 2008, I did a two-hour broadcast from Bridge City, Texas, by highway 62 in Orange County, not far, I'm told, from the city of Orange.

Now, the storm had been downgraded to a tropical storm, but in this area, there was extensive flooding still. And I did that two-hour broadcast from that location. As for those who think I was kneeling or faking the water level or making it look worse than it was or standing in some sort of a hole, this is an area where people had been trapped on the roofs of their homes by water. Texas Governor Rick Perry who I actually interviewed during this broadcast called and I quote, "The largest rescue and recovery operation in Texas state history".

According to our reporter, Russy Dornan (ph) who was there, and she'd been in the area since noon as many as 200 people had already been rescued from their homes by very brave first responders and volunteers. They were taken out in boats and trucks and dump trucks and monster trucks and tractors pulling flatbeds of people. These were people who didn't evacuate, but say the water came in so fast, they got stuck in their homes.

Now, at the time of the broadcast, we were told there were people still waiting for rescue. I tell you all of this to point out the obvious. There was plenty of deep water all around. The idea that I am kneeling in water to make it look deep is frankly idiotic. I'm going to show you, in fact, a clip of me walking in the water, and rather than trying to make it sound worse than it was, I just want you to note that I'm talking about how the water is actually receding, subsiding.

Again, I'm not trying to play up how bad it is, I'm pointing out that this water is actually lower than it was earlier in the day.

[20:55:06] Also in this clip, before you see it, I point out that there is a road right next to us that is being used to evacuate people and I wasn't standing on the road because I didn't want to get in the way and invade people's privacy. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The good news here the water is subsiding a little bit. I just want to walk over and just show our viewers. Also meanwhile, we're still see paramedics, fire personnel, fish and wildlife folks in boats and pickup trucks, monster trucks, taking people out of here, injured people, as well. We've seen just in the last couple of minutes, a couple of cars go by people. We don't want to put a camera in their face, just out of respect for them. But here's a -- look at that pole right there. I don't know if you can zoom in on that. You see, the water level was about a foot and a half higher earlier today.

So it is definitely going down here, but it has a long way to go before anyone is able to return to their homes and there's no telling how long power is going to be out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: OK, so, here's another clip, in which I describe that I am standing by a road that is on higher ground and is being used for evacuations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The highway 62, which is the road that we're on right now, there's a thin slip of it, which just has, you know, a couple of inches of water. And that's what these rescue vehicles have been going on. We haven't wanted to clog up that road, so that's why we've been off on the side of the road. And this is where you really get a sense of the depth of the water. I mean if you walk out there, it just goes down much deeper. We'd be, you know, up to our necks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very low-lying area. And what happens is, Bridge City lies between two rivers. It now looks like a lake, you know, post-Ike. So you go over a bridge, again, just down the road from here, and then you just see that it is, the flood surge has settled over these lowland areas. I mean it's just lower than sea level and, you know, it just -- had flooded the entire area.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: OK, I'm not done. I'm just getting started. Now, my camera crew is on that higher part by the side of the road because you can't put camera equipment in deep water. You have to keep the cameras dry. Here's another part of the broadcast where I again explain that I am standing on the side of a road in a low-lying area where homes were flooded. Our second camera is shooting what's happening on the ground in front of me.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I just want to show our viewers just some of the rescue personnel, the vehicles that have been coming through this water. They're able to drive on part of the road here, but just off to the side of the road, the water just gets incredibly deep. If I step back even a few more feet, I'd basically be up to my neck in water. And you see these things floating by. Here's a tire that's just kind of been floating by. It's kind of surreal, to say the least. The house behind me, as far as we can tell, has been evacuated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: OK. So, here's another part of the broadcast in which I am pointing out the evaluated road, which has only got a little bit of water on it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Let's go to Gary Tuchman -- actually, first, I just want to show you something. We've been showing you a lot in this last hour here in Bridge City of just first responders going back and forth, bringing out people. We saw at least two people being cared for medically and then taken off into ambulances. They've left behind some life rafts here that they dropped off earlier in the day on a little bit of higher ground. That is just in case -- they had a number of life rafts here, they had some extras, so they just kind of deposited this at kind of a staging area.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So I'm pointing out the road that my camera crew is standing on right in front of me. So to be clear, I am continually referencing that road that only has a little bit of water on it, that vehicles are able to move on.

Now, you can argue, I didn't need to be standing in waist-deep water. I could have stood on the road with the camera crew, but again, I didn't want to be roaming around on the highway, interfering with rescue vehicles in any way. I also wanted to show people how deep the water was and how dangerous it is for anyone driving, as anybody who watches hurricanes know, that's how most people die in hurricanes, they drown. If you leave the road, even a few feet off the road, you suddenly find yourself in very deep water and you have no idea how deep it is until you're in it. People drive just a few feet off a road and suddenly get swamped.

Now, sure, it's easy to make fun of someone standing in water reporting. I get that. In fact, during the broadcast, I made fun of myself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: My cameraman just told me there's a water moccasin over there that he's taking a shot of, which is not exactly what I wanted to hear. I actually see it there. That's not -- that's not exactly the kind of thing you want to see when you're standing around like an idiot in floodwaters. But I've been assured it's a small water moccasin, so that makes me feel much better.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, look, I don't expect the President's son to ever admit he was wrong or one of the President's former advisers or frankly anyone else who's retweeted these pictures. But I at least thought that they and you should know the truth.

And finally, for anyone who still thinks that this was taken in Florence, the person you see there, his name was Doug Thomas, the audio tech, he worked for CNN for 26 years, he covered a lot of storms and a lot of stories, he died a year ago this month and we miss him every day.

And that is that. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "CUOMO PRIME TIME" starts now. Chris?

[20:59:58] CUOMO: My brother, first, something that doesn't need to be said. Nobody questions you and your reporting. You are the best that we have and you've earned the distinction. Now something that doesn't need to be said, the truth, you did the right thing.