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Senator Hatch Says Kavanaugh Says Accuser May Be Mistaking Him for Someone Else in Alleged Sexual Assault; McConnell Says Democrats Sat on Kavanaugh Allegation for Weeks; NFL Player Abruptly Quits Team Retires at Halftime. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 17, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


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SEN. OREN HATCH (R), UTAH: He's a very strong, decent man.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you believe him?

HATCH: Yes, I sure do.

RAJU: Do you believe the accusers at all?

HATCH: Well, I think she's mistaken. I think she's -- she's mistaken something, but I don't know. I don't know her.

RAJU: Do you think there should be a public hearing with her?

HATCH: Yes, I think that's the only thing we can do now is hold a public hearing and have the judge express himself on this.

RAJU: And did the judge say that he'd be willing to have a public hearing when you talk to him.

HATCH: I didn't talk to him about that, but I may have said we probably need to have a hearing. You know, you'll need to explain why this is absolving.

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BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. So, bringing all of you guys back. And Maeve, that's the point you were getting to. And the fact is that Senator Hatch is -- it seems like he's taking the side, you know, or believes Judge Kavanaugh and thus the inference is, well, she must have gotten her accusers mixed up? What's your interpretation of that?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. It seems like he was saying, you know, she must have been mistaken. This was possibly some other guy. I just -- I just find that so startling, that a Senator would say something like that. I mean, what decade are we in at this point? Where you wouldn't want to hear the facts from both sides? And again, these are just allegations. We don't know what's true and what's false yet. But to not, you know, let the accuser have her say before members of the judiciary committee.

If someone sexually assaults you, tosses you on a bed and claps their hand over your mouth, there's a highly likelihood you're going to remember who that person is. And I just think it's interesting, because I think we're all having these flashbacks to Anita Hill, it was Senator Hatch's voice that we heard on the clip, you know, that you played earlier --

BALDWIN: Right, way back in the day.

RESTON: Yes, just the idea that you wouldn't treat these allegations seriously, I think it's very risky ground for Republicans. The problem that they have in the midterm elections is that suburban women are not comfortable with President Trump and they're going to face a lot of races where those women will be the deciding factor. So, I think the senators on the judiciary committee ought to be very careful about what they say publicly before we get all the facts here.

BALDWIN: James, would you agree?

JAMES SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I think the President said it right. It's time to take a pause here. And a brief pause is warranted, because of the seriousness of the allegations, respect for the person making the accusations, and the braver it took to come forward. So certainly, she does deserve to be heard.

[11:05:02] BALDWIN: And he said that. He said that.

SCHULTZ: And the facts need to be borne out in the hearing. And the President was clear on that. I think that everyone should reserve judgment on this, including the senators, until they hear out the testimony.

BALDWIN: But it is, Areva, the beginning of how Judge Kavanaugh would defend himself, right? Saying essentially, that wasn't me, I wasn't at that party.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You're so right, Brooke. I've been litigating these cases for over two decades. And I can tell you this narrative that we're hearing from Senator Hatch, that's the narrative we've heard for decades. You start turning the story around, you start twisting the facts in a way that makes the victim again the villain in this situation. So now we're going to question her memory. We're going to question her voracity. We're going to question her judgment.

And in this case, we already know, Dr. Ford not only talked about the assault with her husband, she talked about it with her therapist, there apparently are some notes about what she said to the therapist. So, we have some other evidence that points to the validity and the voracity of her statement. We even have this polygraph test, although it wouldn't be admissible in a court of law. Again, these are the kinds of pieces of evidence that would cause a prosecutor or that would cause a trier of fact to make the conclusion that she's telling the truth. And again, before we allow her to tell her truth, we really need to, you know, roll back the statements like those of Senator Hatch, that starts to poke holes and undermine her credibility, before she's been given a chance to come forward and tell her story to the American people.

SCHULTZ: But let's remember one thing. We wouldn't be in this position. All of these facts would have been borne out through an FBI background investigation. All of these facts would have been borne out through questioning in a closed-door setting, had the process been followed. Now we're faced with something that's going to happen in a very public setting. And the American people now want to know and deserve to know.

BALDWIN: Jim, I've got to push back a little bit. What process is there when you are a woman who suffered sexual and physical assault, allegedly, who is all of a sudden realizing this past summer that the person she says assaulted her is the guy who could be the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court?

SCHULTZ: Absolutely. So, what I'm talking about --

BALDWIN: None of us -- hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on.

SCHULTZ: OK.

BALDWIN: None of us can begin to understand what that process, her own process looks like, to then have the guts to come forward and write a letter, at first anonymously, because she feared the lashing, which has begun. So, I'm just saying, when you say, "the process," hang on --

SCHULTZ: Well, if Dianne Feinstein had been sensitive to all of this, she's a veteran at this. She's gone through this time and time again, the confirmation hearing process. And the FBI, law enforcement, does the background investigation. They ask questions and then that gets borne out through a series of closed doors meetings before any of the public hearings even happen.

RESTON: But I think you're missing the point here.

MARTIN: He is totally missing the point.

SCHULTZ: I'm not missing the point.

MARTIN: Absolutely, you are.

SCHULTZ: I firmly believe that someone had the courage to come forward, certainly deserves and should be heard and the American people --

RESTON: But she was not ready to come forward earlier this year. She went back and forth and was making up her mind about whether or not to come forward.

SCHULTZ: Yes, but let's not forget, that decision was made for her by a leak.

MARTIN: And you're attacking Senator Feinstein as the basis for your tack on her.

SCHULTZ: Yes, because it came by way of a leak.

MARTIN: Jim, you have absolutely no basis for attacking Senator Feinstein.

SCHULTZ: The troubling issue --

MARTIN: Senator Feinstein handled this matter in most appropriate way she could, given what Dr. Ford said about how she wanted this matter handled. You have to respect the process that victims go through when they are being forced to, in this case. She said it's her civic duty that's now compelling her now to come forward with something so personal, so intimate. So, we have to respect her process, as well.

SCHULTZ: I disagree, 100 percent, we must respect her process, as well. That is what's most important here. And we're also talking about the court, the highest court in the land. And we need someone in there that's credible -- that can credibly go into that position with a record that is unscathed. No question.

RESTON: And, and it's a question about character. And that's why this is such an important discussion. If this is the best person to serve on the highest court in the land, then we ought to know what happened in high school. And as he went forward. You know, this is the party culture of D.C. it's many years ago, there are just a lot of facts that we still need to understand going forward.

BALDWIN: We will continue having conversations just like these.

[11:10:00] Everyone from different perspectives. I appreciate each and every one of you. I just had to take a minute on the process. Because it's important to respect that. Guys, thank you so much.

Let's take you now to Capitol Hill. The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is speaking.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: But now, now that accusation of 36-year-old misconduct dating back to high school has been brought forward at the last minute in an irregular manner. It is an accusation which Judge Kavanaugh has completely and unequivocally denied. This is what he said. This is a completely false allegation. I've never done anything like what the accuser describes to her or to anyone.

It is an accusation which the ranking member of the committee of jurisdiction has known about for at least six weeks. Known about for six weeks. Yet chose to keep secret until the 11th hour. Neither she nor any of her Democratic colleagues chose to raise this allegation during the committee staff's bipartisan background calls with the nominee. They did not raise it, even when the name -- even with the name redacted, in the 65 meetings -- 65 meetings -- Judge Kavanaugh held with senators before his confirmation hearing, including his private meeting with the ranking member. They did not raise it, even with the name redacted, in four days of exhaustive public hearings, while Judge Kavanaugh testified under oath. Even though they chose to raise myriad other matters at the hearing, including sometimes bizarre innuendo.

They did not raise it in the closed session, the proper forum where such an allegation could have been addressed with discretion and sensitivity. They did not raise it in the thousands plus follow-up questions that the senator sent to Judge Kavanaugh in writing. But now, now, at the 11th hour, with committee votes on schedule, after Democrats have spent weeks and weeks searching for any possible reason that the nomination should be delayed, now, now they choose to introduce this allegation. Not through the standard bipartisan process, not by advising the judiciary committee colleagues and committee staff through proper channels. Oh, but by leaking it to the press. Because the chain of custody of this letter runs through the Democratic side of the judiciary committee. That's the chain of custody.

I can't explain the situation any better than the senior senator from Maine put it yesterday evening, when she said, if they believed Judge Kavanaugh's accuser, why didn't they surface this information earlier so he could be questioned about it? And if they didn't believe her and chose to withhold the information, why did they decide at the 11th hour to release it? It's really not fair to either of them the way it was handled.

Well, as the senior senator from Texas said yesterday, or earlier today, the Democrats have so egregiously mishandled this up until now, it's no excuse for us to do the same. Just because the Democrats have egregiously mishandled this, said Senator Cornyn, there's no excuse for us to do the same thing. I'm glad that Chairman Grassley is following standard practice and regular order. And he's stated he plans to pursue this matter by the book, with bipartisan interviews of both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. I have great confidence in Chairman Grassley and his ability to proceed through this process.

BALDWIN: All right. So, the Senate Majority Leader there speaking out about these allegations that have just come to light. Chris Cillizza, you're with me now from Washington. You've heard him say over and over and over again, the phrase, coming out at the 11th hour, underscoring this was 36 years ago. This is all the Democrats, he's politicizing it and trying to poke holes.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Right, but, Brooke, the only thing that mattered was that last sentence he said, which is, I trust Senator Grassley to hear from Mrs. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, because that's the only thing -- everything else before that is spin.

[15:45:00] Now, you could argue he's right, he's wrong, it doesn't really matter. What matters is you now have the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Majority Leader essentially saying, yes, we're going to hear from these two people. Now, when is that going to happen? Is it going to be public testimony? Is it going to be in private? I think it would be very hard at this point to not make it public, given that the accuser said she's happy to have it be public, or at least her lawyers said that.

But that's where we are. It seems to me, it's very hard and I don't think Republicans want to give up on this yet, but I don't see how given what Grassley, McConnell, Senator Susan Collins, what they've all said over the last 24 hours, I don't see how you could possibly stay on this Thursday vote schedule. But the judiciary committee is ostensibly voting still on Thursday. I just don't see how you do that. Because it now seems as though we are having these two figures back in Kavanaugh's case to answer questions, in some way, shape, or form.

If that doesn't happen tomorrow, which seems unlikely to me, I don't know, I think you're going to have to push. And the McConnell's of the world do not want this delayed, but this has -- yes, this is a human story, but it also has huge political implications. We're 50 days away from the midterms.

BALDWIN: I was about to ask, how many days?

CILLIZZA: We're 50 days away from the midterms. I keep a running clock up here. 50 days from the midterms, Brooke. We have a President in the White House who was the subject of 12 allegations, more than a dozen allegations about his own conduct with women in the run-up to the election. Republicans have a huge problem with female voters. They can't just sort of ally this and hope it all works out in the end. They have to be careful and by the book and that's what McConnell said, and I just don't see how that comports with saying, we're going to vote on this this week, at all.

BALDWIN: That is the money day, November 6. I cannot believe we are so close to that with all of this happening. Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.

Any moment now, one of the key swing votes on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, Senator Susan Collins, will speak to reporters. This is happening as President Trump came to Judge Kavanaugh's defense moments ago. Stay with us for live coverage from Capitol Hill.

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BALDWIN: An NFL player shocked his teammates and fans by abruptly retiring in the middle of the game. Buffalo Bills' Vontae Davis went out like no other player in NFL history. He started Sunday's game against the LA Chargers in uniform. During halftime he changed into street clothes and quit. Never returning to the field.

He released a statement, this is in part what he said, I have been doing what my body has been programmed to do, get ready to play on game day. I've endured multiple surgeries and played through many injuries throughout my career. And over the last few weeks, this was the latest physical challenge. But today on the field, reality hit me fast and hard. I shouldn't be out there anymore.

So, with me now, retired NFL player Ephraim Salaam. And Ephraim, when you saw this, what were you thinking?

EPHRAIM SALAAM, RETIRED NFL PLAYER: I was thinking, I understand what he's talking about when he says his body isn't in it anymore. Football is one of those sports if you're not all in, it's difficult to play especially at the highest level. So, I understand that sentiment of it, but --

BALDWIN: But?

SALAAM: But --

BALDWIN: I feel a but coming.

SALAAM: Of course. But retiring at halftime of a game -- that to me, that's a little disrespectful because it's one of the most selfish things you can do. Think about those other guys, those 53 guys on that team who are counting on you, whether you're on the field or not. But to just come in at halftime and decide, hey, I've had enough and leave, that's one of the most selfish things you can do.

BALDWIN: Listen to what one of his teammates said.

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LORENZO ALEXANDER, BUFFALO BILLS LINEBACKER: Never seen it ever -- Pop Warner, high school, college, pros, never heard of it, never seen it. And it's just completely disrespectful to his teammates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he say anything to you?

ALEXANDER: No -- didn't say nothing to nobody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He left?

ALEXANDER: Yes. You know as much as I know. I know -- I found out going into second half of the game. Coming out, they said he's not coming out, he retired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So quickly, what are -- are there ramifications to what he did? What happens to him?

SALAAM: He probably forfeits some of the $5 million he signed for. And look. When we -- we have kids -- I always tell my kids, if you start something, you can't quit in the middle of it. And I just think it's the wrong message to send. You've made it to that highest level. At least wait until an hour and a half later after the game, you go in, you speak to the coaches and your teammates and say, guys, it's just not in me anymore.

BALDWIN: Ephraim, good to see you. Thank you very much.

SALAAM: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Back to the big story now. We just heard from the President of the United States. Now we are about to hear from a key senator on this committee in the whole confirmation of supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Republican Senator Susan Collins. Will be speaking in mere moments. These are live pictures outside of her office on all of these allegations.

[15:55:00](COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: TV's biggest night, the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, is this evening. This year all eyes are on Netflix which garnered 112 nominations. Besting HBO by four. "SNL", weekend update anchors, Michael Che and Colin Jost are serving as hosts. HBO's "Game of Thrones" leads pack with 22 nods followed by fan favorites "West World" and "Saturday Night Live" with 21 nominations each. Good luck to all of them.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you very much for being with me here today. Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.