Return to Transcripts main page


Report: Woman Accuses Kavanaugh of Attempted Rape When She Was 15; SEN. Collins Says Both Kavanaugh And Ford Should Testify; Serial Killer Border Agent Confesses to Murders. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 17, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN on this Monday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being me. In 1991, a Supreme Court nominee faced accusations of sexual harassment. And now in 2018, another Supreme Court nominee faces accusations of sexual and physical assault. The question is, as the former, currently serves a lifetime appointment, will the latter get to do the same? The fate of President Trump's nominee hangs in the balance. Brett Kavanaugh is forcefully denying these allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses him of holding her down, covering her mouth, and trying to take off her clothes. She was about 15, he was 17, and stumbling drunk, that is according to her account. And she, at the time, feared for her life, so says her attorney.

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 she 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 that but for his inebriation and his inability to take her clothes off, he would have raped her.

Keep in mind these points. Ford says she first raised this in detail during her therapy session her husband back in 2012. Her husband echoes that, backs her up. She also told her account to "The Washington Post" and her representatives in congress before his nomination was official this summer, but wanted to keep quiet, fearing what could happen publicly, you know, could be for her. She even says she took a polygraph test, and as reporters closed in and contacted her, she eventually decided it was time she should be the one to tell her story. Her lawyer says she is willing to testify publicly and Kavanaugh says he, too, will talk to Senators deciding his fate to refute the allegation and quote, defend his integrity. In fact, we know he's been meeting White House lawyers today to plan for the next steps. We have not heard from the President, but we are hearing from his aide, Kellyanne Conway.

Well, this woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored. So, let me make very clear. I've spoken with the President, I've spoken Senator Graham and others. This woman will be heard. She's going to, I think the senate judiciary committee will decide how and through which forum. In other words, will it be by telephone, will it be in person. But, remember, too, that has to be weighed against what we already know. Which is that Judge Kavanaugh is a man of character and integrity, who has been through six FBI vettings, which I can tell you firsthand, are significant and thorough. He also has been lauded by women from every different aspect of his life.

What's also different than 1991, when Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas is that 2018 is a new era for women. In addition, to the me-too movement, these accusations come as more and more women are running for office than ever before. Let me read you this tweet from CNN analyst, Susan Hennessey. She wrote, it is worth pondering that if this doesn't make a difference, and good money says it won't, two of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will have been credibly accused of serious sexual misconduct and confirmed anyway. That is quite a statement to the women of this country. But let me be clear, we cannot jump to conclusions. We don't know if Kavanaugh did what he's accused of doing. But these allegations must be given serious consideration. Serious investigation. Because the moral history of a person who could spend the rest of his life making judgments on the highest court in the land matters. Let me turn now to CNN political -- national political reporter, MJ Lee in Palo Alto, California, where Kavanaugh's accuser lives. And MJ, you've been out there knocking on doors, trying to get more information. What have you found?

MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke. You know, we've been outside of Christine Blasey Ford's house really since yesterday when that "The Washington Post" broke and the woman decided to identify herself. We have not seen her, needless to say. We did, yesterday.

[14:05:00] There was a man who came by who we believe is a family friend. He went into the house and got their dog out and said that he was just helping to take care of their dog. He also said that she is not interested in talking to media right now and that she probably won't be coming back. So just a reminder of sort of the media storm that this has created and it appears that Christine Ford is wanting to lay low for the time being. We have been talking to some of the neighbors in the area. They describe the family as a nice family, that Christine Ford is a nice woman and a nice neighbor. They're frankly surprised to see these allegations in the news, to see this woman now at the center of this national story. We did speak a woman whose parents have lived across the street from Christine Ford's house for many decades now, and she says that she grew up here and has known Christine for many years. Take a listen to what she says. She says that she is proud of her for speaking out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was really surprised, because you never expect it to be somebody, you know, in your world. But at the same time, I'm really proud of Christine, as a woman, standing up and telling her truth.

LEE: And you said you were not surprised to hear Judge Kavanaugh denying the allegations?

BALDWIN: Well, no, because I think most men in the scenario, in the scene that this happened, would stand up and say, no, this didn't happen. But it speaks to Christine's character that she is standing up and saying, yes, and holding her ground. Good for her. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEE: Now, obviously, all of this has been a very difficult ordeal for Christine Ford. We know that she grappled for a while with the decision of whether to even go public this story. And now the big question is, are we going to see her speak out in public, especially on capitol hill. And now that her lawyer is saying that she is willing to testify about these allegations, about judge Kavanaugh. Brooke?

BALDWIN: MJ, thank you in Palo Alto. During Kavanaugh's hearings, Mazie Hirono asked Kavanaugh if he had sexually assaulted anyone as an adult. Keep in mind, that he was around 17 when this allegedly happened, so not an adult. But I want to play this that for you.


SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, (D), HAWAII: Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or sexual or harassment of a sexual nature?


HIRONO: Have you ever entered into a settlement related to this kind of conduct?



BALDWIN: Let's have a conversation me now. CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. CNN political commentator, Tara Setmayer, she's the host of the podcast, "Honestly Speaking Tara." and also me, Jill Filipovic, a writer and a blogger. So, ladies, I want to dive right in. Sarah, first to you, they're both willing to come forward, both be questioned and testify. And depending on whose story you believe, isn't it possible that a teenage Brett Kavanaugh could have done this years ago and has grown into an upstanding, loving father and husband and judge? Could both be true? Tara?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I didn't hear you say that was for me.

BALDWIN: No worries.

SETMAYER: Yes, both could be true, but it could also be true that this, in fact, happened the way that Dr. Ford remembers it and that it was politically motivated the way in which Democrats released it. And it's possible that Judge Kavanaugh lied about it. I mean, all of these scenarios are possible. The issue now is whether this should be adjudicated properly. And it has to be, at this point. There's no way that Republicans can move forward this vote on Thursday without giving Dr. Ford the opportunity to publicly testify about what took place and for judge Kavanaugh to have the opportunity to respond. At this point, it's a credibility battle. We're never going to know exactly what happened in that room that day 36 years ago. And I think that's what the White House is banking on. They're thinking that Kavanaugh's credibility, they're going to put that up against Dr. Ford's. And we're going to look at, this is exactly why women are so reluctant to come forward when they make these kinds of accusations, when they happen. Because they're afraid of getting torn apart in public. And it's not easy. But in the era of me too, it's a completely different environment. And I think that the Republicans, particularly the White House, they have to be cautious about the way they go after Dr. Ford, because you've got two female senators who are crucial in moving forward Kavanaugh's nomination and Collins and Murkowski and you also have a midterm. You don't want to upset anymore women than you already have, given this administration's record women.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: You hit on a bunch of points. I want to hone in on them one by one. Jill, of course, everyone's bringing up the comparison to Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. But one of the big differences is that Kavanaugh and Ford were teenagers. They weren't grown-ups at work. Do you think youth should be taken into account here?

JILL FILIPOVIC, WRITER AND BLOGGER: No. I think as a general rule, of course, youth should be taken into account in criminal trials, when we're determining that kind of responsibility. We're taking away someone's freedom or potentially their life. This isn't a criminal trial. This is about, does this person have the integrity and the character to sit on the highest court in the land and to make decisions that are going to impact the lives of women and girls around the country. I think that if you are credibly accused of sexual violence or mistreating women, you simply cede your right to be in a position of power over women and girls.

BALDWIN: Another huge difference between, you know, what happened in '91 and now is me-too, right? As Tara brought up. And not only that, but you know, you look at all of the women, Kaitlan, you look at all of the women who are speaking up, who are using their voices, who are running for office this year. You know, this is not happening in a vacuum.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I think the White House is fully aware of that. And that's why you saw Kellyanne Conway come out and make those comments today, that she should not be ignored. And she should not be insulted. And that they should listen to what she has to say. But they also want their Supreme Court nominee to have his say, too. And it's important to look at what judge Kavanaugh's denials have been. They have not been conceding that he was at this party, that he was this woman. He is outright denying that anything like this ever happened. So that's going to be something that they have to take into account. But really back at the White House, it's really a waiting game to see what's going to happen on capitol hill, what Chairman Grassley is going to make the decision about whether or not they're actually still going to vote on this Thursday. And we know that President Trump is annoyed, because our sources are telling us this by the drama surrounding all of these allegations against Kavanaugh. He feels that his nominee's name is being run through the mud because of these old allegations. And we know, Brooke, that President Trump has privately voiced his suspicions about the me-too movement, because they think so that mere allegations can go on to ruin the lives of men. And we've seen him do that, when he stood up for his staff secretary, rob porter, who was accused of abusing his ex-wives. The President stood by him and said he was a good guy and he hoped he went on to have a good life. And also, we have to keep in mind that President Trump is still resentful about what happened when he nominated Dr. Ronny Jackson, his doctor, to be the Veterans Affairs secretary, and then allegations were made against him. Now, they were allegations certainly of a very different nature, but President Trump is still resentful that allegations were made, and it was enough to derail his nomination and that that could be an opportunity or something that happens here with Judge Kavanaugh.

BALDWIN: But publicly, we haven't heard anything from this President. And Tara, Kaitlan mentioned Kellyanne Conway coming out on TV and saying, yes, this woman should be heard. And of course, she speaks for the President. And she says she talked to the President and this woman will be heard. But you also have to take into account the President's own past, right?

SETMAYER: That's right.

BALDWIN: And his own accusers and so it -- you know, you -- one may wonder why he hasn't said anything, but it's like, if he's saying this woman should be heard --


BALDWIN: Then what about the other women?

SETMAYER: That's right. It's an interesting tactic that Kellyanne Conway is employing here. Trying to say, all of a sudden, now, accusers who come forward old allegations should be heard? But that wasn't the position they took when the allegations came out against Donald Trump. And they were accusations that were a lot sooner, a lot more recent than 36 years ago. So, which is it? They didn't do the same thing Roy Moore. So, which is it? This is what happens when you have an immoral person in the oval office and when Republicans and conservatives defend the indefensible on the character front. You can't have it both ways. So, which is it? So, I think what they're -- again, this is -- I kind of chuckle to myself, actually, when Kellyanne Conway came out about that. The self-righteous, oh, she should be heard. Really? Well, then we apply the same standard to this administration, a lot of people, including the President of the United States, wouldn't hold up. They wouldn't stand the scrutiny. So, they need to have it both ways. One other really quick thing. What's concerning me as a conservative about this situation, initially thought that this was a Democratic ploy. I meantime, this ain't beanbag, especially Supreme Court nominations, that it was a Democratic ploy at the last minute to try to derail Kavanaugh, until I saw the accuser come out, put her name to it, and I saw the details.

[14:15:00] BALDWIN: That changed everything for you?

SETMAYER: That changed everything for me. Because Kavanaugh's denying that the incident happened. And she's saying that the incident happened. So, somebody's lying here. And it seems to me that it's more credible if the incident happened based on the facts that have come out that the accuser is offering. And also, because of the person who was in the room with him. This guy, Mark Judge --

BALDWIN: Who hasn't denied it. Says, he doesn't recall. And went on to writing a book about alcoholism and talks about the keg clubs and the yearbook --

SETMAYER: Yea, that's right. All of those things make it more plausible to me that the incident happened, which tells me that Kavanaugh's potentially lying. And that to me is disqualifying in and of itself.

BALDWIN: Or if he just doesn't remember.

SETMAYER: I don't know about that.

BALDWIN: You don't know about that. Jill, what do you think?

FILIPOVIC: Having no recollection is a convenient excuse at times.

BALDWIN: Well, I'm just saying, think back to some of your high school parties, I'm not saying you, but when you read some of these stories from this other guy that was in the room, who knows? Who knows? We weren't in the room. Go ahead, Jill, what do you think?

FILIPOVIC: I think that Tara's probably right. That he does remember, if it happened. You know, again, we don't know for sure. You know, that said, I think the reality is that these kind of experiences are so traumatic for women and often the men that perpetrate them are doing it out of a sense of broad entitlement. And aren't necessarily having -- I mean, they're obviously not having the same emotional reaction. So it does seem -- I mean, it seems unlikely, but it seems plausible to me that Kavanaugh as a 17-year- old, who was getting drunk his friends, it sounds like, every weekend and some nights of the week, according to the mark judge book, you know, could have plausibly committed this act, and to him it was such a nonissue, the entitlement to someone else's body, that sort of disgusting male behavior that seems to really animate the lives of not most young men, but some young men, that for him, maybe, this was just, you know, kind of an unfortunate Saturday night. Whereas for Dr. Ford, you know, it shaped the rest of her life.

BALDWIN: It haunted her. It haunted her for years.


BALDWIN: And the fact that judge Kavanaugh, Kaitlan, has been huddling all day White House lawyers, what does that tell you?

COLLINS: Well, he's been at the White House. He hasn't met President Trump, as far as we've been told by our sources inside the White House, but I think what is going on here is that they are trying to find out everything that he does know and that he does recall about this. You know, he has flatly denied this, but they want to know more about this. Because, of course, it is the White House, this is their nominee. So that is likely what is happening behind those closed doors today, as they are meeting judge Kavanaugh. Because, of course, the White House did vet him before they selected him as their nominee. But this is not something that they would have known. This is not really a problem of White House vetting, because the question would be, how would they have known about this incident, if it was only between judge Kavanaugh and this woman, as she alleges. So that is really the concern for the White House and that is what they are waiting to see. Does this woman come forward, does she end up testifying publicly, and does she seem credible if she does come forward? Because it's going to be a lot harder for the White House to stay his nomination, and they know this, if this woman does come forward, and if she does seem credible, and if the American public does buy her story? Because that really could hurt them. And of course, if those two crucial senators, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Collins, if they do find this woman's claims to be believable and don't vote for him, that would raise a lot of problems for this White House him being their nominee, but right now there is no discussion inside the White House about pulling his nomination.

BALDWIN: Senator Collins did say they should both be testifying. So, we'll wait to see and wait to see what happens by Thursday. Ladies, thank you so much. All eyes on this story.


BALDWIN: We were just talking about this friend, Mark Judge, Kavanaugh's friend and the alleged witness to this whole thing. We did some digging and we'll tell you what we found on him. Also, ahead, large sections of an entire area underwater. Rivers continue to rise as towns fear the worst in the wake of Florence. We'll take you there.

And she is the most famous actress in China and now she has vanished! Without a trace. Is the government involved? The mystery deepens, ahead.

A key senator in Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation says the woman accusing him of a sexual assault during their high school years should be heard. Senator Susan Collins, who could be a swing vote here tweeted earlier, quote, professor Ford and judge Kavanaugh should both testify, under oath, before the judiciary committee. The plan was to hold Kavanaugh's vote for nomination in the committee this Thursday. So, let's go to straight to capitol hill and CNN's congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, who is standing outside the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's office, Chuck Grassley's office, so what's the latest you're hearing about Thursday?

[14:25:00] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as of now, Brooke, the committee vote is still on, scheduled for Thursday in front of the senate judiciary hearing, but this is such an incredibly fast-moving story. And that's what brings us, as you noted here, in front of Senator Chuck Grassley's office. He faces an incredible amount of pressure, of course, from many Democrats on that committee. They have called for him en masse in a statement this morning to delay the vote on Thursday and certainly, he's also facing calls from Republicans to, at the very least, find out more information. Potentially hold new hearings. Now, Grassley did come out with a statement a short time ago, basically saying that he's, in his words, working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims. He says he's working to set up calls with the relevant parties, including Dr. Ford and potentially Kavanaugh, as well, to find out more information. He does say in that statement, anyone who comes forward, as Dr. Ford has, deserves to be heard.

So, he's working on a way to potentially make that happen. But this comes as many lawmakers are returning to capitol hill after the weekend of these allegations coming forward. And we certainly heard from many key senators, many whom will have a key vote, a key say in whether Kavanaugh goes forward or not, including Senator Jeff Flake on the judiciary committee. Republicans saying, he can in good faith potentially vote yes if he does not know more information. Also, Susan Collins, as you noted, tweeting out this morning that she believes that there should be an under-oath testimony from both Kavanaugh and from Dr. Ford. Here, of course, the accuser that came forward over the weekend. Certainly, we're also paying close attention to those red-state Democrats. Key here, we heard from three of them this morning. We heard from Joe Donnelly, Senator Manchin, and Heidi Heitkamp, all basically saying that more information, potentially more hearings need to happen. So certainly, a lot of questions on capitol hill about the future. As of now, we believe that this committee vote is going forward, but it seems that they're going to have a certain amount of phone calls with these interested parties, seeing if that could potentially still happen.

BALDWIN: Sunlen, thank you. Let us know if that vote time changes whatsoever. It is fast moving. Thank you.

By the way, the crisis is getting worse across the Carolinas. A desire situation as floodwaters overtake entire neighborhoods. Look at this. We'll take you live to Lumberton, North Carolina, where high-water rescues are still happening right now as officials fear a levy could break.

Also. ahead, a border patrol agent accused of living a double life as a serial killer. [00:25:00] The daring escape one woman made before she could have become his next victim.