Return to Transcripts main page


Lawyer: Victims Should Control When They Tell Their Story; Wilmington, N.C., Cut Off by Extreme Flooding; U.S. Border Patrol Agent Arrested in 4 Murders. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 17, 2018 - 09:30   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Why now and any talk of the timing being politically -- sorry, this is some live picture here. This is Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee this morning. He just walked behind the car there, probably hidden now by that tree.

[09:30:17] But this is going to be a different -- it's a different morning -- this is him moments ago, leaving his front door there.

HARLOW: And remember, we just learned, as you noted earlier, Jim, that he, according to two sources that tell CNN, he's willing to answer questions.

SCIUTTO: That's right.

HARLOW: He's willing to testify.

SCIUTTO: For all this to be clear, happening within moments this morning, right? I mean, last night there was open discussion of how the White House pushes back, perhaps attacks the accuser.

This morning, the accuser saying, "Listen, I'm willing to testify in public before the Senate," and soon after that, Brett Kavanaugh saying he's willing to tell his story, although he did not specify in public. He said perhaps to staff or behind closed doors. But as he walks into his car there, we see that picture, a very different Monday morning than what he expected just 24 hours ago.

HARLOW: Let's listen to Ms. Ford's attorney just this morning on CNN, responding to criticism of the timing here.


DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY FOR CHRISTINE BASEY FORD: In this moment, victims need to be able to control when and whether their stories become public. She went to her senator, because she had information that she thought was very important, that had bearing on the fitness and character of this nominee.

And throughout that period of time, Senator Feinstein's office was eager for her to come forward, if she felt comfortable coming forward. There was no effort to dissuade her from coming forward. This was entirely this woman's decision.


HARLOW: All right. Let's discuss this with our political commentator Errol Louis and Republican strategist Alice Stewart is here.

Alice, I want you to listen to one other portion that really struck me from Alisyn Camerota's interview with -- with Ms. Ford's attorney, Ms. Katz. Listen to what she said about that time that Ms. Ford is alleging, you know, 30 plus years ago.


KATZ: The reason she felt that he might inadvertently kill her is he had his hand over her mouth, and she was having a difficult time breathing. And he is larger, and he was pressing his weight against her and so inebriated, he was ignoring the fact that she was attempting to scream and having a difficult time breathing. And she believes but, for his inebriation and his inability to take her clothes off, he would have raped her.


HARLOW: A woman, an accuser who has now said she would publicly testify to this, believes that she would have been raped by Kavanaugh if he were not so inebriated, that at one time she feared for her life. Again, Kavanaugh unequivocally denies all of this.

Slice, how do Republican senators, especially female Republican senators handle this now?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's disturbing to hear that, and it's disturbing to understand that she's been having these thoughts and feelings for all this time.

The best way for Republicans and Democrats to handle this is to take off their partisan hats and look at this from the human standpoint. In this #MeToo movement, women deserve to be heard. They deserve to have their full airing of what's going on. And it's important for us to do so.

She deserves to be heard. At the same time, Judge Kavanaugh deserves to face his accuser. So in my view, the best way to move forward with regard to this nomination process, I think we can still have markup and vote on Thursday. But we need to have them both go before the committee. Both need to get both sides out there and let the members of the Judiciary Committee make the decision based on the evidence at hand.

It is unfortunate, however, that Senator Feinstein had this information for months and didn't disclose it. When she talked directly to Judge Kavanaugh, when she testified at the hearing. Now we're at the 11th hour. In my view, what appears to be a character assassination that could have been dealt with and discussed throughout the process, now we're trying to -- to make amends and rectify this in the best way possible so that the #MeToo movement can make something positive happen out of this in regard to giving women a voice in this difficult situation but also getting to the truth. SCIUTTO: Alice, I have to push back on that to somebody just to look

at the timeline here. To be clear, this came out. The accuser that called a tip line at "The Washington Post" in July, then went to her congresswoman. Her congresswoman referred it to Senator Feinstein.

Senator Feinstein has said she didn't go public with this, because the accuser -- and keep in mind, the details that Poppy just shared of at least her account of this interaction with Kavanaugh. Because the accuser did not want her name out in public.

And then what happened is that that name leaked out. Is it -- I understand why, your point of view and others supporting Kavanaugh see this as 11th hour character assassination. But is it possible there's a more innocent explanation here? One, just the primary motivation of protecting this woman's identity.

STEWART: Jim, I fully support Senator Feinstein wanted to protect her identity. And she did a great job of doing so.

[09:35:03] That being said, when she had the opportunity to talk privately with Judge Kavanaugh and address these issues and ask him these questions, why didn't she do it? Why didn't she do it in a timely manner and -- and get to the bottom of this much sooner than we are now?

The information wouldn't have to be disclosed. The identity of Ms. Ford would not have been made public. For Feinstein to have this private conversation with Judge Kavanaugh, that would have been the appropriate way to do that.

That being said, now we are at the eleventh hour, and serious discussions are being made this morning as to how to proceed. But in my view, the most important thing is to get all of the information out there, let Ms. Ford tell her story, and let Judge Kavanaugh respond in a public forum.

HARLOW: And that may take time. I mean, eleventh hour, according to the schedule that exists now but, you know, as Republicans showed with Merrick Garland, frankly, you don't need to have this vote on Thursday, right?

And I wonder, Errol Louis, to you, you've got Collins, Senator Collins, and Lisa Murkowski in the spotlight squarely now, right? And we are reminded of how critical they were of former Democratic Senator Al Franken when the allegations, numerous allegations surfaced against him.

Let's remind our viewers, Senator Collins said last year about the Al Franken allegations, quote, "The latest allegation adds to a very disturbing list of allegations. I think it would be best for the Senate if he followed the advice of his Democratic colleagues."

Murkowski tweeted, "We're seeing a culture of harassment and assault being exposed on a daily basis." She went on to say, "Senator Franken must know that, and that's why he must step down."

Does that complicate how they handle this?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it complicates matters for everybody. And we should be clear that there's no -- there's going to be no perfect solution to this. Right? The statute of limitations, as you've discussed, has long since passed. There's not going to be a criminal investigation. There's not even going to be the possibility of a civil judgment.

What we're going to have instead is this political discussion. And everybody who comes up will be open to accusations, as you just suggested, of possible hypocrisy, of possible overt partisanship.

You know, it's only the eleventh hour, because the Republican conference has decided that Thursday is the 12th hour. You know, to the extent that they -- they're trying to get him approved so that he can sit when the Supreme Court meets for the first -- you know, next term in October. That's the deadline they've been pushing against. There's a political deadline in the form of the November 6 midterm election.


LOUIS: There's all these different deadlines. But the reality is a public discussion is going to happen. Based on what the accuser's attorney has said, she's going to tell her story. She'll either tell it on CNN or on "60 Minutes" or some other kind of public forum. But the right forum is actually in the U.S. Senate.

SCIUTTO: Alice, if I could ask you, so you have -- listen, and part of this is how we, as a country, as a society, are dealing with allegations like this today when they come into the public forum.

Because as you said, Alice, the accuser has a right to have her voice heard, but so does the accused. He has a right to tell his side of the story. So I wonder what's more important? Is that Thursday deadline more important or is a public discussion of both sides?

Because just as Democrats can be accused of politics on this, Republicans can be accused of politics for pushing for that deadline. As Errol laid out here, a lot of that's about getting this -- this guy sitting on the bench before October 1, when the Supreme Court term starts, before midterm elections, which blows up.

In your view, what's more important, that Thursday deadline of the vote or getting a fair airing of both sides of this allegation?

STEWART: Jim, that's a great question. The Thursday deadline is important, because that is how the Judiciary Committee has had this set up. But this is a lifetime appointment --

SCIUTTO: But why is -- has it set up for a political reason, right?

STEWART: My point is, if I can finish, this is a lifetime appointment. That being said -- knowing that, knowing the issues at stake and the gravity of these accusations and what this job entails, I think we owe it to ourselves as a nation. And in this #MeToo movement, if we have to delay the vote, if we have to delay the markup, we owe it to ourselves as a country to fully vet this story, get all of the facts out there and move on according to all the information out there, and not just the timeline that has been designated by the committee.


HARLOW: We don't have time to play the sound but Errol, Steve Bannon giving an interview over the weekend, giving this interview, and let me quote him. OK. Asked about the #MeToo movement -- this was not related to Kavanaugh, but asked about the #MeToo movement, Steve Bannon said, "I believe it is the single most powerful potential political movement in the world." And certainly when you frame it around what's happening right now.

LOUIS: There's evidence for that. I mean, the analogy to what happened with the Clarence Thomas nomination, which some of us are old enough to remember. Remember, 1992, the very next election, was considered the year of the

woman. Because, you know, Feinstein got elected. Barbara Boxer got elected. Perry Murray (ph) got elected. Carol Moseley Braun got elected. There was this wave of women, including a couple of Republican senators who got elected, women who -- and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, I think, was the recipient of that.

[09:40:12] They all come into the Senate, in part, because of this discussion. Again, not a court case. Never stopped the nomination. Judge Thomas is there to this day. But the reality is by hearing all of the senators talk about what they think about this issue, it made that movement gel. It made it real and relevant. People carried their thoughts about that movement into the voting booth, and I think we could see the same thing this year.

HARLOW: All right, Errol, thank you. Alice, thank you. Important discussion.

We have a lot ahead this morning. You have highways, you have neighborhoods unrecognizable because of the flooding caused by Hurricane Florence. For some storm victims across Carolina, the worst may still be in store. We're going to give you a live update in one of the hardest-hit cities next.


SCIUTTO: This morning, there is devastation across the Carolinas. Florence has killed some 18 people, trapped hundreds, made parts of North and South Carolina impassable today. And authorities say the worst of the flooding may still be yet to come.

[09:45:12] HARLOW: That's a scary thought.

Transportation officials are telling people not to travel anywhere in North Carolina. Really, don't hit the road, et cetera. The floodwaters have already cut off the coastal city of Wilmington from the rest of the state. Just think about that. Cut off Wilmington from the rest of the state. Let's go to Kaylee Hartung. She's at a shelter there and has the

latest. And they warned us, you know, this was going to be a story of persistent, prolonged rain and flooding. What are you hearing there?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Poppy and Jim, the sun is just starting to come out for the first time in really four days, but that flood threat continues.

There is no way in or out of Wilmington right now. It's typically a peninsula, but now it's essentially an island. The mayor telling me you can't get closer than 40, maybe 20 miles to this area before you come to an impassable road because of where floodwaters have risen.

So they caution anybody who has left this town, who's trying to come back to survey the damage of their home, don't even try. You will be stopped by highway patrol.

But we are seeing the first signs of some high-water vehicles are being allowed to pass by officials as gas stations are open in this area. We have seen two of them with lines down the street and around the corner.

But an increasingly problematic situation is arising in this county, because they have five shelters open in this area before the storm. They have now consolidated into one at this high school, a brand-new facility, they say, with a large gymnasium.

Just moments ago, I spoke with a man by the name of James Ammons, who shared with me his experience.


JAMES AMMONS, STORM VICTIM: The reason why I lost my car is because there was a girl who hadn't had food, and I wanted to get her some food. Went and got her, picked her up, lost my vehicle. Came back at the same time, you know, my vehicle is gone, whatever. It is what it is. I can't change that. So I've just got to accept it and move on.

Now, as far as other people, we've got people in here that's lost houses, people who have lost relatives. People, you know -- and it's hard to see that. And -- but at the same time, you've just got to be grateful for what you have right now. Because I think, to a certain extent, I feel like that's what's happening to a lot of people. You know, we haven't been so grateful for what we have, so it's being taken away from us.


HARTUNG: Emotions are running high outside the shelter, Jim and Poppy. James himself has been at three different shelters. The first two he was put in actually took on water. Now this shelter has more than 600 people in it. But they say they have capacity for 1,300 if anybody else is in need of refuge at this time.

HARLOW: OK. Kaylee, thank you for being there. It's incredible to think. I mean, Wilmington, an island essentially, cut off from everything else right now. We appreciate all your reporting. And Kaylee, you and all the teams on the ground there were great through the storm and the aftermath.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The danger has not gone away.

HARLOW: Not at all.

SCIUTTO: Keep listening to first responders and the authorities.


SCIUTTO: Meanwhile, a Border Patrol agent has been accused of hunting down and killing four people. Coming up, how a fifth woman led to his arrest in this killing spree.


HARLOW: All right. A Border Patrol agent this morning is accused of going on a killing spree on the U.S./Mexico border. You see him right there. Juan David Ortiz is charged in four execution-style murders that happened over a two-week period.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Joe Johns joins us now from Laredo, Texas.

Joe, this all came about. He was caught, though, when his fifth victim, his would-be fifth victim escaped.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It did. It's a little bit more complicated than that in some ways, Jim.

This was an individual that was picked up, apparently, by Juan David Ortiz, an individual known to Juan David Ortiz. She was taken to his house. And during the course of that, they had some type of a discussion about the first woman who was killed.

And apparently, Ortiz and the woman became rather agitated at some point. He pulled out a gun. She tried to escape. He grabbed her top, pulled it off. She ran off and talked to a state trooper. They began to backtrack.

But also important to say that, at least according to the affidavit, as written, after Ortiz took off, when police tried to find him, during that period of time, he apparently killed two other people. So there was a lot that happened between Friday and Saturday night here. And the chronology is not quite clear.

We're hoping for authorities, who have scheduled a 2 p.m. local news conference, to give us a few more details. There's also a critical question. He's being described as a serial killer. This is a supervisor at the border protection accused of being a serial killer, and the question, of course, is whether there could be more victims.

Jim and Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: I mean, that's just remarkable. You know, someone meant to protect, accused of this. Incredible. Thank you, Joe. Update us. Also this. A deadly shark attack. A swimmer at Cape Cod Beach died

over the weekend after being attacked by a shark. It's believed to be the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in more than 80 years.

SCIUTTO: Just a real shock there. Witnesses say that 26-year-old Arthur Medici and another man, they were boogie boarding about 30 yards offshore Saturday when the attack happened.

The victim, you see him there, was given first aid, CPR at the scene, but later pronounced dead at the hospital.

A statement from Bunker Hill Community College says Medici, who was an engineering major there, was enrolled as a part-time student in the spring.

[09:55:06] HARLOW: All right. We're going to get back to our top story, because the calls are growing to delay the vote for the president's second Supreme Court pick in as many years, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, after his accuser goes public and says she is willing to testify. Well, Kavanaugh says he is also willing to answer questions. We're following the fast-moving developments. We'll be right back.

SCIUTTO: Stay with us.


SCIUTTO: Top of the hour. I'm Jim Sciutto. Happy to be alongside my colleague.

HARLOW: So glad to have you here. Not a slow news day at all. We have a lot going on, and it is developing quickly. Good morning, everyone. We're so glad you're with us.

New this morning, sources tell us add at CNN that Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now open to answering questions under oath about a decades-old sexual assault allegation that now threatens to derail his nomination to sit for life.