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Calls for Delay of Kavanaugh Vote; White House Downplays Manafort Plea Deal; Cape Code Beaches Remain Closed after Deadly Shark Attack. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 17, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:33:39] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What appeared last week to be a Supreme Court nominee on a glide path to confirmation this week, it's up in the air. The Senate Judiciary Committee was set to vote Thursday on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination. But after Christine Blasey Ford went on the record to accuse Judge Kavanaugh of attempted sexual assault when they were teenagers, a growing number of lawmakers are saying they need more time now. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee say the vote should be delayed until all questions on Kavanaugh's record and character are answered. How much more time? And who's going to decide? That is where the big political debate is at this moment.

Joining me now, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist, Kirsten Powers, and Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press, Julie Pace.

Great to see you guys.

Julie, if Blasey says she's willing to testify, and Republican members on the committee say that she should be allowed to, and they want to hear from her, and Kavanaugh is now willing to testify, is that the beginning and end of if this is going to happen or not? How could it not now?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, you would think it would be, but it's actually not because we haven't heard from a lot of Republican leaders, some of the most influential people in this decision, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley. I think that the fact that Blasey Ford came forward and said she would testify and the fact Kavanaugh says he will come forward as well certainly amps up the pressure on Republicans. It's really difficult to see how they could say, well, if both of these parties are willing to testify, we're going to move forward without hearing from them.

[11:35:10] BOLDUAN: Right.

PACE: That being said, there's a pretty tight timeline that Republicans are on right now. They really want to have this whole process wrapped up and done for Kavanaugh to be on the Supreme Court by October 1st. And that means having a Judiciary Committee vote on Thursday. There's just not a lot of wiggle room there. So while certainly you would assume that if two people say they're willing to go forward and speak, that people would take them up on that offer, but if that messes up the timeline, you're going to see some Republicans really trying to push back on this.

BOLDUAN: Again, but that's not like a constitutionally mandated timeline, just to be clear to everyone. That's a timeline the Republican leaders have set.

(CROSSTALK)

PACE: It is not.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

PACE: Exactly, something Republican leaders have set. They have basically built this entire confirmation process around that timeline. So they don't have to put him on the court by October 1st, but if it slips beyond that, you're suddenly talking about not being able to get someone on potentially before the election, and that opens up a whole other set of circumstances.

BOLDUAN: Yes, of course. Election politics. How do we forget those?

So there are Republicans, everyone was already watching, right? Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and suggesting, I guess this graphic is saying it the right way, that they seem to be maybe wavering. Murkowski suggesting there might need to be a delay. Add in Jeff Flake, who is on the committee, saying there should be a delay so they can learn more.

Are they risking votes -- meaning the committee, meaning Mitch McConnell -- if they push this forward without giving more time that these Republicans say is needed?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, if that's where they really ultimately come down. I think that Mitch McConnell will count the votes and do whatever he needs to do to get there. Based on the people I have talked to today, they're not concerned about it. They think he's going to survive this and that, you know, that they'll vote on Thursday. Now, I think that could change as this starts to gather more heat and get more attention. But I think the general view among Republicans is they don't -- they believe what Brett Kavanaugh is saying. They believe when he says this never happened, that it didn't happen. They believe this is a last-minute character assassination, even though I think the facts sort of bear out that that's not really what happened. This wasn't really meant to be last-minute. It was actually brought up much sooner and mishandled, I think. But that is how Republicans see it.

BOLDUAN: Well, and I do want to get to a little bit of what seems to have been cleared up somewhat today.

Julie, one thing happening is Republicans have been really critical of Senator Dianne Feinstein, asking, in their view, why she kind of, quote/unquote, "sat on this information since July."

But one thing we learned today from her attorney, from Christine Blasey Ford's attorney, is that she wasn't sitting on anything because they asked her to keep the letter, her story, her allegation, confidential. Here's her attorney. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY FOR CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: It was not shared. And honestly, we made the request. My client made the request that Senator Feinstein treat her allegations confidentially, and Senator Feinstein agreed to do so. I will say that the door was always open. And the staff made it clear that if she changed her mind, she could come forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Do you think that settles this part of it, if you will, Julie?

PACE: I don't think it settles it in terms of the political debate around it.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

PACE: But I do think that it hits on a really important element of this whole conversation. You know, yes, we're talking about a Supreme Court nomination. We're talking about a major political fight. But we're also talking about a woman who is grappling with what to do about a sexual allegation, a sexual misconduct allegation, and whether she should be out there publicly or not. And that's an incredibly sensitive an incredibly emotional decision to make. And you know, for people to be sort of casting doubt on the timing of this or to be sort of rendering judgment on how she proceeded, I think, is probably pretty inappropriate. This is, again, while we're in a big political moment, this is ultimately a really personal decision for this woman.

[11:39:28] BOLDUAN: Yes, and unfortunately, now wrapped up in a very big way in a very political moment.

Julie, thank you.

Kirsten, thank you.

It's great to see you guys.

Coming up, after finding out that former campaign manager -- campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is cooperating with the special counsel, Team Trump goes on the attack. What does that look like this time? That's next.

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BOLDUAN: As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. And is that exactly what we're seeing from Team Trump in the wake of the stunning news that Paul Manafort is cooperating now with the special counsel? On Friday, Manafort entered guilty pleas for conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. In return, the president's former campaign chairman agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Now, President Trump is telling the "Wall Street Journal" the Manafort case has nothing to do with him, saying this, "I got hit with an artificial witch hunt that should never have happened."

And the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had this to say about that plea deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:45:03] RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUM: The plea agreement has, and the cooperation agreement, has nothing to do with the Trump campaign. Quote, "There's no evidence of collusion." Now, I know that because I have been privy to a lot of facts I can't repeat, but the reality is no evidence of collusion. All you have to do is look at the plea. The plea is to crimes that have to do with Manafort's past, no involvement with President Trump, no involvement with the campaign, no involvement with Russia. And by the way, there's also no evidence of obstruction.

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BOLDUAN: With me right now, CNN legal analyst, Shan Wu.

Shan, you were right here with me on Friday when this news broke that Manafort was cooperating with the special counsel. Since then, do you have any clearer sense of Trump's legal team's strategy to counter this out there right now?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think we do have a sense of that. And as you said, they're taking the position that the best defense is a good offense. As usual, Giuliani is putting forth his view that this has nothing to do with the president. He has set the stage for this argument a while back when he broke the news to all of us that he had a secret joint defense agreement, not only with Manafort but apparently with many other witnesses, so he was getting kind of back- channel communications, which he claims gives him and the president a lot of comfort that there can't be any damaging information. Whether that's true or not -- I have some doubts about that -- it certainly has ended at this point. And the idea that the cooperation has nothing to do with the president is simply false on its face. I mean, the obvious point would be that Manafort was present at the famous Trump tower meeting. And the more subtle point is that Manafort, unlike the former White House Counsel McGahn, has a unique insight into the president's mind set. He's there with him, talking about campaign strategy. If anyone is going to know about the possibility of Russian influence or offers of help, that will be the person who will know about it.

BOLDUAN: In the end, Shan, what we're seeing from Donald Trump's legal team right now is this very clearly -- and I don't know if it needs to be anything but this -- but it's a P.R. strategy, not a legal strategy, right?

WU: It's primarily a P.R. strategy. I think, all along, they have been looking towards the possibility of the political arena of impeachment. It's a legal strategy to the extent that they continue to try to send, I think, some messages to people. And this notion that they have had a joint defense agreement with Manafort could provide some comfort for the president, certainly, but it also provides comfort to Manafort by saying that, meaning, we're OK with what you're going to say, we hope you're going to say what we think you're going to say. Therefore, the possibility of the pardon is still on the table. So in that sense, it goes a little bit to legal strategy.

BOLDUAN: From the layman, I would assume that all of this coming out since Friday makes it less likely for the possibility of the president to sit down for an interview himself, but what do you think now?

WU: I think, at this point, it's becoming increasingly difficult for the president to sit down. You know, just between McGahn's 30 hours of interviews, and Manafort probably has already given a lot of interviews at this point and there will be more, he's kind of book ended by these two people who would both have great privy, access to what he's said and his mindset. I think that's extremely dangerous at this point for him to sit down. It's just getting worse and worse for him all the time.

BOLDUAN: Shan, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

WU: Good to see you. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, it hasn't happened in 80 years, a deadly shark attack off the coast of Massachusetts. We're going to take you to the scene next.

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[11:53:17] BOLDUAN: Multiple beaches in a Cape Cod town are still closed to swimmers at this hour days after a deadly shark attack. It's the first deadly shark attack in Massachusetts in over 80 years. It is so rare, it is, though, the second attack to happen in Cape Code in the last month.

CNN's Alison Kosik is in Massachusetts with the latest attack.

Alison, what are you learning about what happened?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDET: Kate, as far as the beaches go, all of the beaches that face the open ocean are closed to swimmers, although not everybody adhering to the posted signs behind me. You can see a handful of surfers catching waves out there. The closures coming after 26-year-old Arthur Medici on Saturday was attacked by a shark and he died from injuries. Last night, friends gathered to remember him as a guy with a bright smile and a bright future and they tossed flowers into the ocean as they said goodbye.

There have been more and more shark sightings here on Cape Cod as the population of seals has dramatically risen because sharks are the number-one predators. You are seeing an increase of sharks come in and do their hunting. But experts point out that shark attacks are very rare. There are

less than 100 shark attacks globally per year. But there is one thing that is worrying scientists. They're worried that the sharks are coming closer and closer to shore. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG SKOMAL, SHARK BIOLOGIST, MASSACHUSETTS DIVISION OF MARINE FISHERIES: What we can say is we are seeing sharks, these white sharks approach the beaches very closely. If they have an avenue to get in close to shore, they are going to take advantage of it because that's where their pray are. That's where the seals are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:55:03] KOSIK: Now scientists like that study shark behavior. They say if you are in the ocean, be vigilant, be aware of your surroundings. And if you see a drop off in the ocean while you are in there, the suggestion is you don't want to go into that deep water -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Alison, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, says he is willing to testify again, and so is the woman accusing him of sexual assault. What are the top Republicans on the Senate committee going to do now? That's next.

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