Return to Transcripts main page


Kavanaugh And Accuser To Testify In Public Hearing Monday; Kavanaugh Has Been At White House, Behind Closed Doors For 9 Hours. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 17, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUT FRONT" starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Out front tonight, breaking news, a public hearing. Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser to speak in front of the world and under oath about the sexual assault allegation threatening to derail Kavanaugh's nomination. And more on Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh's accuser. I'll speak to Congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, the first member of Congress to hear about the allegations.

Plus, the waters along with the death tolls rising in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. And now, a tornado outbreak on the heels of the monster storm. Let's go out front.

Good evening, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, breaking news. The President Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser will now testify in public.

Tonight, the Senate Judiciary Committee announcing it will take place next Monday, delaying a major vote to advance Kavanaugh's nomination to the Senate floor. This comes after President Trump spoke out for the first time about the sexual assault allegation facing his Supreme Court nominee.

His remarks disciplined and measured. There was no lashing out, no calling the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, a liar as he has often in the past with other accusations of assault. The President instead, calling on both sides to be heard.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. I think it's important. I believe they think it's important.


BOLDUAN: Now, a source tells CNN Kavanaugh is flabbergasted by the sexual assault allegations, which date back to the early 1980s when both Kavanaugh and Ford were in high school. According to Ford, a drunk Kavanaugh held her down in a bedroom at a party. He tried to pull off her bathing suit and put his hand over her mouth to keep her from yelling for help.

Ford's attorney also says that Ford feared for her life. Kavanaugh strongly denies the accusation. But Republican Senator Susan Collins, who's a key vote in his eventual confirmation, had this warning tonight.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: If Judge Kavanaugh has lied about what happened, that would be disqualifying.


BOLDUAN: But the idea that Kavanaugh would withdraw his name from consideration now, not one, the President even wants to entertain.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has he offered to withdraw?

TRUMP: Next question. What a ridiculous question.


BOLDUAN: This story is quickly developing this evening both into Pennsylvania Avenue. So Jeff Zeleny is live at the White House. But I want to start though with Sunlen Serfaty. She's out front live on Capitol Hill for us. So, Sunlen, what more can you tell us about this hearing coming on Monday?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well this officially is on the schedule, Kate. It was just set by the Senate Judiciary Committee for Monday at 10:00 a.m. And the Chairman of that committee, Chuck Grassley, is saying that this is going to be a public hearing. Important he says here, a public hearing to provide ample transparency in his words to give these recent allegations. He says a full hearing and we believe, as you said, both Judge Kavanaugh and the accuser Doctor Ford will appear at that hearing in open public forum.

It's still unclear exactly what the schedules of that hearing, what will be exactly what the details, how they will appear, that all being worked out at this very late hour. In fact, there was just a huddle by Republican leadership and members of that committee and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office just about 90 minutes ago and they came out essentially confirming all of the details of this hearing, really did catch many members. Even members of the committee off guard, an indication how quickly and fast moving this story is up here in Capitol Hill.

This, of course, means that the committee vote that was originally scheduled for this Thursday is no longer happening, delayed of course, until after this public hearing. The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, upraising the decision by the committee. He said that was a good decision. We're going to go forward and the Chairman of that committee, Chuck Grassley, being very noncommittal tonight when and if another committee vote will be put on the schedule, of course, so much tasks to settle up here in Capitol Hill.

BOLDUAN: And it all depends on, really, what comes out of this hearing on Monday. It's just unbelievable. Sunlen, thank you so much. A lot happening on Capitol Hill tonight.

Let's get our Jeff Zeleny at the White House. Jeff, you have some new details about how Kavanaugh's -- about Kavanaugh's visit to the White House today.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Kate. We do indeed. Judge Kavanaugh has spent nearly nine hours. I'm here at the White House preparing for this confirmation battle ahead. He has been here behind close doors, I'm told, hollowing with members of this confirmation team. We reported earlier from someone who's close to him describing his mood as flabbergasted by this.

I'm told by another official he's shaken but focused on defending his integrity. Now, he did put out a statement this evening through the White House press office. They said that Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to -- to try to clear his name of this false allegation. They are focusing now, preparing so much for that public hearing on Monday.

[19:05:11] Interestingly, I am told the President did not speak with Judge Kavanaugh directly face to face. But, boy, he defended him publicly. But, Kate, there were so much discipline and measured words the President was using. He was not going after the accuser at all. That is a directive from the -- up here at the White House.

The President we've seen before will simply go after accusers. That is not what's happening. They believe there should be a public hearing that shows the stakes of all of these.

Kate, we're 50 days before the midterm elections. Everything revolves on the stakes of the hearing. But Judge Kavanaugh is still here at the White House, I'm told, as we speak, will be leaving shortly. But, boy, several interesting days ahead before that public hearing on Monday. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, and that tone from the President -- I mean, you don't have to watch the President for a week to see just how unusual that tone and discipline is --

ZELENY: Very disciplined today.

BOLDUAN: -- that you were seeing today. Let's see. We've got what? Another week to see if it lasts until the hearing happens. Great to see you, Jeff. Thank you so much.

Out front tonight, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic Senator Chris Coons. Senator, thanks for coming in.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you, Kate. Great to be on with you again.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. So much happening tonight.


BOLDUAN: This is -- In this hearing coming up on Monday, this is what Democrats have been calling for. Are you satisfied with how Republicans are handling this tonight?

COONS: Well, I think it's important that Doctor Ford have a chance to be heard and for the American people to reach their own conclusions about Judge Kavanaugh and Doctor Ford. And I think one of the things that's essential to this being a fair and deliberate an open process is for the FBI to do their job.

Every time someone is nominated for a federal court position whether it's on the Supreme Court or any other lifetime appointments for a federal court, the FBI does a background investigation. And I am hoping the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who are Democrats are demanding that we get clarity about whether the FBI will be using this intervening week to conduct a thorough and responsible background check. And whether they think that is enough time to get clarity about other evidence that could be gathered to either support or challenge the allegations made by Doctor Ford.

BOLDUAN: So Senator, are you saying that you are not satisfied with having this public hearing to have Christine Blasey Ford have, first, they tell her story and have Judge Kavanaugh face more questions as well? You won't be satisfied with just that. You will only be satisfied if the FBI reopens the background investigation into Judge Kavanaugh?

COONS: Well, Kate, first, I am encouraged that a number of Republican senators step forward. Senators Flake and Senator Corker, I think, were the first two to insist that this Thursday's vote be delayed to allow Doctor Ford to be heard. I think that's important and we should recognized that that was a significant step forward.

What I'm saying is, if all that happens is we have these two witnesses in front of us, with no more evidence, no one else questioned, we don't have Mark Judge, for example testifying, who's been named by Doctor Ford as the third person in the room during this disturbing alleged incident in high school, then I don't think we've had a full opportunity to have this incident investigated.

BOLDUAN: Do you want to call him -- I mean, obviously, the Chairman has the most say in this. But do you want to call Mark Judge to testify?

COONS: Yes, I think not having in front of us the third person who is alleged to have been a participant in this troubling incident would be to not fully question whether there is some truth to this or not. I don't think we should --

BOLDUAN: Do you know if that's at all a possibility? I mean, this has all been moving so fast. I don't even want to preclude. I mean, do you know that he hasn't been asked? COONS: I don't know that. I don't know Mark Judge and I don't know whether he's been called to testify or not. You know, frankly, this morning it seemed unlikely that there would be a hearing.

Now that we're talking about the details of a hearing, for a week from now, all I'm trying to lay out is that in an instance like this where the event itself is decades ago and there is a little bit of contemporaneous evidence. I think that before we make such an important decision, a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. We want to make sure that the independent professionals of the FBI provide us whatever additional information they responsibly can.

BOLDUAN: You have you known -- you have said you have grave concerns about Judge Kavanaugh being on the court. But you have also known Judge Kavanaugh for 30 years.

COONS: That's right.

BOLDUAN: And you've called him a good husband, a good father. You've called him a nice man. Do you think that he's capable of what Christine Blasey Ford is alleging?

COONS: Well, I did not know him in high school or college. And I was unaware of these allegations. I have come out publicly, opposed to Judge Kavanaugh's nominations on the court based on his legal reasoning, based on his views on Presidential power. The things that I questioned him most sharply about in his confirmation hearing, and frankly given that he did not add anything to what he said in the confirmation hearing in the lengthy back and forth we had in written questions, and in his case known the answers. I have just publicly announced earlier today that I intend to vote against him.

[19:10:03] BOLDUAN: You are officially a no?

COONS: Correct.

BOLDUAN: You are officially a no as of this evening. Even before hearing what happens on Monday.

COONS: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Senator, Dianne Feinstein -- Senator Dianne Feinstein. She is who had this information, this letter from Christine Blasey Ford. When did Senator Feinstein tell you about the letter that she received from Blasey Ford?

COONS: I just found out about it late last week. There was a meeting of Senate Judiciary Democrats, where she shared with us that it was out in the press that the press was asking about it. And she gave us the background on how it came to be in her possession. What she did to try and verify it, how she tried to protect Doctor Ford's request for confidentiality, and the steps that she took that got us to today.

BOLDUAN: She is facing -- Senator Feinstein is facing criticism for respecting that request, if you will. Do you wish Senator Feinstein would have alerted you to the existence of this allegation earlier? Could she have done that while still protecting Christine Blasey Ford's identity?

COONS: Well, you know, once Doctor Ford retained an attorney. The back and forth with her attorney I think understandably took a number of weeks. I think there were some misunderstandings about how forthcoming she would be or wouldn't be. And I deeply respect that Senator Feinstein intended to follow the request for confidentiality from Doctor Ford.

BOLDUAN: So you don't question the timing at all from Dianne Feinstein. You don't wish she had come to you any earlier?

COONS: I'm convinced having been with her in person and asked here about this. That this was a good faith attempt on her part to balance the public's need to know, with a deep respect for the victims repeated request for confidentiality. It is only because this letter was leaked that we know today who Doctor Ford is, and that she's now contemplating, testifying. I'm certain that Senator Feinstein placed very heavy reliance on her repeated request for confidentiality.

BOLDUAN: Senator, thank you for coming in.

COONS: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Looking forward to hearing what you have to ask both Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh next week. I appreciate your time.

COONS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Out front next, Christine Blasey Ford's attorney says that she doesn't want the hearing to become, quote, weaponized. Is that even possible to avoid at this point?

Plus, Ford's decision to testify publicly, raising stark parallels to the harassment claims made by Anita Hill in 1991.

And breaking news, the deadly flooding in the Carolinas claiming even more lives tonight. Rescues are still under way. Hundreds of thousands are still without power. Is the worst still yet to come?


[19:16:21] BOLDUAN: More on our breaking news tonight, a public hearing now scheduled for next Monday on the sexual assault allegation against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Could this be a game changer for Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination now?

Out front now, David Gergen, former Advisor to four Presidents, Amy Kremer, Co-founder and Co-chair of Women for Trump and Paul Begala, former White House Counsel to President Clinton. Thanks all for being here.

An amazing kind of events this afternoon with you guys. David, a public hearing over these allegations, both of these people will be testifying and taking questions. How big of a moment is this?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: Well this nomination, one of the most important nominations in to the Supreme Court in years and years. It is now on a knife edge, Kate, who would have imagined. But the truth is that they say, open hearings. And I'm glad. I'm really glad the committee decided to make them open that the American people judge. I'm glad that they are having these hearings.

But as now very largely going to be determined probably in the court of public opinion. You know, people have a chance to tune in and see which one I think is more credible. The problem is going to be, though, what if we come out with incomplete testimony? Well there are a lot of loose ends.

For example, I would think we need to know, the Washington Post has reported that there were two other teenagers at this party. And apparently there are names that The Post has. Well, shouldn't we know from them, you know, what they remember? Is that what the FBI on this or not on this? There going to be a lot of loose ends that need to be investigated before Monday that could have a bearing.

BOLDUAN: And that is an interesting point. That's actually something that Senator Chris Coons just brought up. He wants the other person who was allegedly in the room at the time, it seems Mark Judge. He wants him to testify as well. He says no word -- I mean, that's not scheduled in course over the week until this hearing, so who knows.

But, Amy, are you looking forward to hearing from Christine Blasey Ford herself or is your mind already made up on this?

AMY KREMER, CO-FOUNDER & CO-CHAIR, WOMEN FOR TRUMP: Kate, I just believe that it's never going to be proven or disproven. I mean, there is no way to go back 35 years and prove it or disprove it. And so, I think we're going to have a circus on Monday and it's what the media wants. It's what the left want. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that the Democrats --

BOLDUAN: Why isn't the right one? Why does -- why don't Republicans want it as well? Because Republicans do want it. Jeff Flake wants it. Susan Collins wants it.

KREMER: That's right. You know what? I have no problem with it. I mean, I think they both should be heard. I just -- I believe that we don't need a three-ring circus. I think that it should be done behind closed doors. And then, you know, if they decide that it needs to go to public, let the Senate Judiciary Committee decide. But if it's going to be public, I have no problem with that. Do it publicly.

I'm glad that both of them are going to be heard because I think it's absolutely wrong to all of a sudden accuse somebody of something. And there's no corroborating evidence, no supporting evidence whatsoever, and then all of a sudden somebody's life is going to be turned upside down. I mean, that is a slippery slope. And that is what is happening in today's age because what is happening is this person is being prosecuted in the media, by public opinion, and I don't think that's right.

BOLDUAN: Well there -- I mean, you can have your opinion on the corroborating evidence, but she has -- I mean, in the Washington Post reported on, this reported on this extensively in the conversation with her, there are notes from her conversations years ago in therapy with her therapists and couple therapy and then on her own --- in her own therapy session, so there is that.

No one has spoken to the other to -- one other person denies it. There were other people that were at the party. So you talk about corroborating evidence. You can have your opinion of it but there is other stuff out there, and this is coming out.

[19:20:05] KREMER: OK. So there is notes with her therapist. We haven't heard from the therapist. But you know what, if that -- this is a thing, it doesn't matter, because it's not going to be proven or disproven. What concerns me is that all of a sudden we are in this period in our society where a woman makes an accusation against a man. And all of a sudden what she says is Gospel and the man has no right to defend himself. Nobody believes him and that's not right. I wouldn't like it if it were my husband, my father, my brother and you gentlemen too. You would want due process, and Brett Kavanaugh is --

BOLDUAN: Paul, Paul, do you think this is --

KREMER: -- he should have due process.

BOLDUAN: Paul, do you think this is not due process what we're looking on here?

PAUL BEGALA, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Actually, I think it's not. The Republicans were in-charge the process and they are facing a choice. They can either professionalize this or politicize it. So far, they're looking like they're politicizing it. This is what I mean. By the way, this is not the Democrat's political interest but this is what they ought to do, the Republicans.

They ought to first professionalize it. Do it (INAUDIBLE). Bring in the FBI. Don't go straight to a public hearing. It may make some very good points. But the FBI which is full of professional investigators who investigate these kind alleged sex crimes all the time, put them in charge. Let them thoroughly look at every bit of corroborating evidence.

The right, there's talk of notes from a therapy session. There's talk of other people who attended the party. We haven't had professional investigators. And the FBI look at this. By the way, if you lie to the FBI, it's a crime. So they have a really powerful incentive to find the truth.

BOLDUAN: It's also a crime if you lie under oath to Congress.

BEGALA: It is, but I want a professional first before you get politicians. The second thing we're going to do is something Ron Klain is suggesting. He was the Chief Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee when the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill having (ph).

He says, let the politicians conduct the hearing, but let the questions be asked by professional counsel they bring in for this who have the expertise in this. And the third thing, this is for the Republicans not on my party, they should put it off until after the election. We're 50 days in the election. The truth is the Democrats, if they have --

BOLDUAN: But Paul, stop trying to be too cute by half?

BEGALA: I'm not. Kate, hear me out. No, this is my country which -- it comes ahead of my party. I'm not being cute. The Democrats are going to win the midterms likely on the strength of support from college educator white women in the suburbs. Those are exactly who frankly are going to have a meltdown if the Republicans politicize this.

So the truth is the Democrats, if I were just to hack Democrat, I'd say, great, let's have the hearing next week and Ted Cruz will look like a complete jerk hurting the feelings interrogating this for a woman.

KREMER: Paul --

BEGALA: No, I'm actually speaking at the citizen. They should try to slow this down and professionalize it rather than speed it up and politicize it.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Amy.

KREMER: Paul, you -- how will Republicans politicizing this? I mean, this has dropped in Republicans lap at the last minute. Dianne Feinstein sat on this letter since July.


BOLDUAN: -- even if something comes late, should it not -- should someone who has -- a lot of sexual assault victims don't come out until years later. No matter what motivation, don't you want to know if it's true?

KREMER: Yes, I want to know if it's true, Kate. But I don't think we ever will know and again it goes back to why didn't Dianne Feinstein bring this out.

BOLDUAN: So she was expecting the request of this woman.

GERGEN: Well listen, this is --

BOLDUAN: He did want to be drag through this. Go ahead, David.

GERGEN: I think you have to show more compassion for the woman herself. She is very deeply torn about this. And she weighed very carefully what she should do and she has wanted to keep this confidential all along but this was not only blade hit (ph) by the woman. She wrote to the Washington Post or contacted the Washington Post back in July before Brett Kavanaugh was even nominated to raise concern because his name was on a short list. And she went to her congresswoman.

And in all cases, she asked for confidentiality. And it's not Dianne Feinstein fault that it was leak as far as we know. It leaked and then the woman decided to come forward. This only happen a few days ago. I think it's a canard to say, well they should had this up here weeks ago. It is imperfect process, but now that we have it --

KREMER: David, you know what, this is the same day.

GERGEN: -- both side, both goods -- yes.

KREMER: David, they could have -- they didn't have to bring it public. Dianne Feinstein, the committee could have asked about it in the hearings, in private hearings and all the questions that were asked. They didn't have to do it publicly. It wasn't like they had to bring it out publicly, but she sat on it. She didn't even bring it --


GERGEN: No, wait a minute. Well, hold on.


GERGEN: Would you please hold on. OK. The -- when the committee had these hearings, they did not have this letter because the woman had requested, deeply requested, repeatedly requested confidentiality. She did not want her life torn apart. If you think this is bad for Judge Kavanaugh, think what she is going through. I imagined she's had that security by now.

This is a very -- I think from my point of view the woman was brave, and we ought to have more sympathy for what woman after woman after woman in this society has had to endure. And that is the efforts by people to sweep it aside and move on. In this case, I applaud the Republicans for opening it up and to have hearings. What I do think is right, I think Paul is right about the fact that it would be best to have a serious thorough investigation by the FBI.

[19:25:05] And I don't think that has to wait until after the midterms. I think it can be done in a matter of couple of weeks. And it maybe that Monday is going to be too soon to actually have -- get to more definitive answers. And then we're all going to be feeling like one is more credible than the other. But we still don't know and, you know, that's the reason for doing it properly upfront. But they have made more progress than I thought they'd make by now in terms of the Republicans trying to do this right.

BOLDUAN: Amy, final thought.

KREMER: Yes, I just -- I mean, he's been through six FBI investigations. He's been in public service for a long time. And now all of a sudden this is coming out, and I go back to Dianne Feinstein. I feel sorry for the woman whether it'd happened or not because -- I mean, coming forward in this climate today I know it's not easy. I'm going to get hate mail and horrible messages just from being on here talking about it.

BOLDUAN: Yes. KREMER: So I have compassion for her. But Dianne Feinstein I think holds some responsibility here. And this is not acceptable.

BOLDUAN: I will say though of the six background check that previously happen, this one has said that she never has brought it to the authority before. So it's really impossible to think that any background check previously would have caused this. And that's why this is happening now. But thank you all very much for coming --

BEGALA: Yes. And Dianne Feinstein conduct herself honor here. Amy, I don't want let that go in challenge with real --

GERGEN: I agree.

BEGALA: -- protected this one as confidentiality. She's a very honorable senator. put that ahead for partisan interest.

BOLDUAN: Thank you guys. Thank you very much.

Out front next, before Christine Blasey Ford story became public, she first contacted her Congresswoman Anna Eshoo. What happen from there? The Congresswoman is my guest.

Plus, the President continues to question the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria. My guest tonight, the professor who's team calculated that thousands of people likely died from that storm. What's her respond?


[19:30:14] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: I believe her completely -- that's the message from one of Christine Blasey Ford's fellow alumni at school Ford attended when she claims Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. And Blasey Ford's neighbors are also coming out and strongly defending her.

M.J. Lee is in Palo Alto, California, outside Ford's home.

M.J., what are you hearing from folks there.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Kate, we've been outside of Blasey Ford's house really since yesterday when that "Washington Post" story broke, and it's been quiet. We haven't seen Blasey Ford or members of her family, the only time that we saw someone go into the house was yesterday when a man came to pick up their dog and he told us that he doesn't expect the family to come back any time soon.

You can imagine, this is a quiet suburban neighborhood in Palo Alto. We know that Blasey Ford is a professor at the Palo Alto University nearby.

And the neighbors that have been talking to today are, frankly, they're pretty surprised to see the cameras and reporters that have come by the House, and really surprised to hear that Blasey Ford is now at the center of this huge national story, and we've seen a lot of supportive statements coming from neighbors, parents where Blasey Ford's kids go to school, using words like courage, saying that they're proud that Blasey Ford has chosen to speak out.

One woman we spoke who says her kids go to the same school as the kids of Blasey Ford, she said that she actually had been busy calling senators in Washington and getting them to try to hear out Blasey Ford. Here's what she had to say.


KRISTEN PODULKA, CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD'S NEIGHBOR: She's a hero. She's an absolute hero of women. What we are hoping and myself and my colleagues and friends have been doing is calling the three senators on the Republican side who may flip. We're not their constituents, the message I keep leaving for them is that their decision affects my life, even though I don't live in their state.


LEE: And, Kate, another community that has shown support for her is the Holton Arms School. This, of course, is the prep school that Blasey Ford attended in Maryland back when she says this alleged encounter with Kavanaugh happened. The head of the school put out a statement, put out an email to the parents of the school today that we've obtained, and here's a little of what she wrote.

She wrote, as a school, we see this as an opportunity to support women who take the very difficult step of speaking out -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: M.J., thank you so much.

OUTFRONT with me now, the lawmaker that Christine Blasey Ford first reached out to, Democratic Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California.

Congresswoman, thank you for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Have you spoken directly to Blasey Ford?

ESHOO: I have. She is my constituent and she reached out to my office in Palo Alto, requesting a meeting. I did meet with her in July for a -- over a lengthy period of time actually, she told me her story. I asked her many questions. I made sure that she knew she was in a safe place, that whatever she shared with me, that it was covered by total privacy, because that is so important. Well, it's important to every constituent of mine.

And it's always the case for each case that comes into our office. I thought that it was important for me to share with her that I was not there to tell her what to do, but rather she tell me where she wanted to go with this.

BOLDUAN: So what did she tell you?

ESHOO: And that I would do everything I could to assist her. Pardon me?

BOLDUAN: What did she tell you? Did she ask you to -- when she gave you the letter, did she ask you to give the letter to senator --

ESHOO: No, no, no, she didn't -- no, she didn't come to my office with a letter.

BOLDUAN: How did this --

ESHOO: She came to my office to meet with me. She came to my office to meet with me. She then, at the end of our discussion and after she answered many of my questions -- we must have met for at least an hour and a half -- she did tell me that she thought that it would be prudent that I take it to another level.

And so, I contacted Senator Dianne Feinstein and the reason I did is because she was very importantly the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

BOLDUAN: So, how did the letter come about then?

ESHOO: On the heels of that, on the heels of that, my constituent addressed a letter to Senator Feinstein. [19:35:02] It was dated July 30th and my office made sure that that letter was hand-delivered the same day to Senator Feinstein's office.

BOLDUAN: Did you read -- I assume you did not read that letter, you had a long conversation with her and probably knew the contents of it, of course? But you had not read the letter before it was given to Dianne Feinstein.

ESHOO: I knew the content of the letter. She entrusted it to me, and then on to the right person in Senator Feinstein's office.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, "The Washington Post" reporter who Blasey Ford also went on the record with described on CNN today how she did not want to go public, because she did not -- because she didn't want her life up ended. But at some point, things changes for her. Listen to this.


EMMA BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Her calculation shifted because she felt like her privacy was already being invaded. And she still had this thing in her that she wanted people to know what had happened to her.


BOLDUAN: It got out somehow, though. Did it come from your office?

ESHOO: Absolutely not. No. I would never do that. No.

I think my constituent all along had a tug of war going on inside of her, understanding what privacy brought to her, but also the risks of moving over into the public square. This is not something that's unusual for victims of sexual abuse. Once you go public you are subjected to a great deal.

And so, she did decide that she wanted her truth to come out and that she would tell her story and not have others mischaracterize it. And I think that first of all I'm deep when I grateful to her, because she has exhibited an enormous amount of courage to do this.

BOLDUAN: Have you spoken to her since this became public?

ESHOO: o, I haven't. I did send her a copy of the statement that I was putting out publicly. And she acknowledged receipt of that.

BOLDUAN: Senator Feinstein is facing criticism -- I heard it already on tonight's show -- for not releasing the information, not releasing it sooner, not just from Republicans but also from back home in California, the "San Francisco Chronicle" writing in an editorial: It was unfair to Kavanaugh, unfair to his accuser and unfair to Feinstein's colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Do you think that Senator Feinstein should have alerted colleagues on the committee of the existence of an allegation even without revealing her identity?

ESHOO: Well, I can say this about Senator Feinstein. I have known her for years and years preceding my 16 years of service in the House of Representatives. She's diligent she's very serious minded.

I don't know the inner workings of the Senate. But I know that Senator Feinstein did everything to protect the privacy of our mutual constituent. And I respect her for that.

And now, this is in the public realm and what I sincerely hope for is that all of the senators. All of the members of the Judiciary Committee will receive my constituent with the level of respect that is due her. This is a very, very tough thing to do, to exhibit this kind of courage. But I can tell you that from the time I spent with her, and what she shared with me, it was self-evident that she had been scarred by this experience and will be for a lifetime.

And in the public square, we're talking about a lifetime appointment to the highest court of the land, the United States Supreme Court. So, she deserves the full respect of the committee and that the questions they ask are fair, certainly, there will be tough ones but -- and I think there will be a contrast, because the judge is accustomed to speaking publicly.

[19:40:04] My constituent isn't. She's the mother of two. She is -- you know, she's not average in terms of intelligence, but the public square and politics are not something that she is accustomed to.

BOLDUAN: Can I ask you very quickly? You spent -- she told you her story, is there -- is there more to the story than has been told publicly?

ESHOO: Well, I think that her letter explains rather fully what she endured. She certainly knew the layout of the house very well. So her recollection about specifics in so many areas was very clear.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, this goes without saying, I guess, but you believe her?

ESHOO: I do believe her. And at the end of our conversation that day, in my office, I told her I believed her.

BOLDUAN: Is what Christine Blasey Ford has told you, is this disqualifying for Brett Kavanaugh to be on the Supreme Court?

ESHOO: Well, I think that character matters, I always have, and I think in a democracy truth matters, because we're always seeking it. And once we hear the truth, learn the truth, we then honor it, I think this is a case where the truth eventually will be honored.

BOLDUAN: And so, you do think it is disqualifying?

ESHOO: I think the truth will be honored.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for coming in.

ESHOO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so very much.

OUTFRONT for us next, breaking news, Hurricane Florence now blamed for 32 deaths. The waters still rising, rescues still underway. We're also continuing to follow breaking news out of Washington, as we've been discussing just now. Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser both scheduled to testify in public. That hearing and the allegation drawing comparisons to those against a now current justice.


[19:46:21] BOLDUAN: Tonight, the death toll from Florence is rising to 32, 25 of those deaths, including that of a 3-month-old baby, were in North Carolina. And now, on the heals of Florence, a tornado outbreak in Central and Southern Virginia associated with this monster storm has left one person dead.

Scott McLean is OUTFRONT.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Widespread flooding, impassable roads and bridges, and entire communities under water.

Florence has weakened and moved northward, but the next threat is still rising.

GOV. ROY COOPER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Some areas have not seen the worst flooding yet.

MCLEAN: The worst may still be ahead. Rivers rise, some won't crest for days. The Coast Guard and rescue teams from across the country are scrambling to help those stranded in homes and cars. In North Carolina, a one-year-old drowned after he was swept away by

rushing water, his mother drove through a flooded area and tried to escape her car while holding the child but lost her grip.

SHERIFF EDDIE CATHEY, UNION COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: Driving through water where the roads are closed is dangerous for anybody. We had some success and then we had some tragedy.

MCLEAN: Meanwhile, volunteers are braving flooded roads in high water vehicles to bring food, water and supplies to cut off communities. Lumberton, North Carolina, is bracing for the worst. Lumber River levee teeters on failure, prompting flashbacks to 2016 when Hurricane Matthew made its unwelcomed visit.

COREY WALTERS, LUMBERTON PUBLIC WORKS DEPUTY DIRECTOR: We're throwing everything we got at it. Where we're standing at right now, it scoured 20 feet deep when Matthew came through.

MCLEAN: The time to return home is still unknown for thousands who evacuated.

COOPER: We do not want evacuees to go back, we do not want that to happen right now. There's too much going on.

PASTOR TIM OSMENT, RESIDENT OF LORIS, SOUTH CAROLINA: This is worse than Matthew. Matthew only got up to right there.

MCLEAN: In Loris, South Carolina, Pastor Tim Osment woke up to the smell of smoke from his electrical circuit shorting out and the sound of rushing water as the storm sent more than two feet of water into his basement. Moments later he was walking through a knee deep fast moving current to get out.

OSMENT: It was scary as we were going out, it was up to my knees. And, you know, I'm six feet tall. That much water moving swiftly, it can take you off your feet.

MCLEAN: Osment has flood insurance, Carl Lee Mccoll does not.


MCLEAN: Mccoll had to walk out of his apartment in waist deep water. It's the second time he's been flooded in the past two years.


MCLEAN: Kate, I'm now standing on what would be main street here in Conway, South Carolina, it's become an extension of the Waccamaw River. And I spoke earlier with the folks who owned this printing company across the street.

They're actually still operating, believe it or not, or they have to shuttle all their products back and forth across the street by boat. They have resigned themselves to the fact that they will flood. They put sands bags around their most expensive pieces of equipment. The river right now is just a couple of inches from the door, though this river is expected to rise three feet by the weekend -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Unbelievable that it's still coming.

Thank you so much, Scott.

Also tonight, George Washington University is standing behind its study that found nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last year. This after President Trump just last week claimed that the number was essentially bogus, tweeted this in part, 3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island after the storm had hit, they had anywhere from six to 18 deaths. This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.

OUTFRONT now, Lynn Goldman.

[19:50:01] She is the dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University which conducted this study.

Thanks so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: This was your study. This is your study. How do you respond to the president saying that he doesn't believe it?

GOLDMAN: This is an independent, scientific investigation that was definitely at arm's length from any government, whether the U.S. government or the government of Puerto Rico, in which we looked at the statistics very carefully, about how many deaths occurred in the months after this storm, how many people we could project that were there on the island, and indeed came up with the number, 2,975 deaths between September of 2017 and February 2018.

BOLDUAN: The study calculates what's called excessive deaths, from the time between, as you said, September 2017 and February 2018. It is an approximation.

Do you think it could still change?

GOLDMAN: It could change a bit. When we looked at it month by month, we did see that in February of 2018, there was a statistical excess, which could mean that the excess lives lost could have been occurring also into March, April, and May. So, there could be still a few more that we were not able to account for. Honestly, we thought we would have reached the end of it by going out that many months, but I think we didn't quite catch the very end of the tail, or if we did, we were just lucky.

So at some point in time, I think it would be important to look at the later months.

BOLDUAN: So you think the number could still go up?

GOLDMAN: It could go up a bit. I would say what's more important from the standpoint of the public's health is to understand more about the circumstances surrounding the deaths, so we can see, what can we do in the future to prevent these deaths? I mean, just as in South Carolina, we see people -- you know, counts of deaths today that result from trees falling on people and people drowning, those immediate, very direct causes of death.

But when you have many people who are relocated from their housing, who are isolated, who are stranded, then other things can happen, such as the inability to obtain medical care when there's an emergency, people running out of their drugs, who have chronic diseases, perhaps unable to power up devices that they depend on at home for medical care. Those kinds of deaths are harder to find, but I think that they are a very significant impact of these storms. And they harken things that we need to do in order to protect people when more of these storms arrive.

BOLDUAN: That also gets to where some of the skepticism is. It goes to -- folks are kind of talking about direct and indirect deaths. I mean, what do you say to folks that are skeptical, though, that you don't have necessarily a death certificate for every person in the count?

GOLDMAN: Well, actually, our study was based on death certificates. The problem is that, for example, one way that we know some people lost their lives after Hurricane Maria was through inability to -- in a prompt fashion, obtain medical care pep when roads are cut off, you call for -- you call 911, you call for emergency assistance and it takes hours and hours for that to come and your loved one dies.

Now, what we don't know, because sometimes even under normal circumstances, people die in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and they're not able to save their lives. So, it's very hard to say in which case that person would have survived if the ambulance came on time and in which they wouldn't have. But we just know that there were many, many -- every month, hundreds of excess deaths that were occurring.

BOLDUAN: That shows something in your statistical analysis that was out of the norm.

GOLDMAN: It does.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for coming in, Lynn Goldman. I really appreciate it.

GOLDMAN: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, a dramatic moment about to unfold in Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process and one that no one would have thought about before now. It's drawing comparisons to the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings.


[19:57:04] BOLDUAN: The drama surrounding Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court is drawing comparisons to a controversy that gripped the country more than 25 years ago.

Anita Hill testified under oath that she suffered sexual harassment by then-nominee and now Justice Clarence Thomas.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two federal judges, conservative nominees for the Supreme Court. Two women, reluctant witnesses from the men's past, accusing them of sexual misconduct. What else is similar? Plenty.


FOREMAN: In 1991, when law professor Anita Hill said her boss, Clarence Thomas, sexually harassed her in the '80s, she offered details of routine advances and lewd comments.

HILL: He talked about pornographic materials, depicting individuals with large penises or large breasts involved in various sex acts. On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess.

CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: This is a circus. It's a natural disgrace.

FOREMAN: Thomas forcefully denied it all.

THOMAS: And from are my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I'm concerned, it is a high tech lynching for uppity blacks, who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas.

FOREMAN: Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, professor Christine Blasey Ford, is also laying out details, saying, at a high school party, Kavanaugh pushed me into a bedroom, climbed on top of her and tried to disrobe me. And Kavanaugh, just like Thomas, is saying, this is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The day began with the Roy Moore revelation by Kellyanne Conway. It ends with Charlie Rose, accused of unwanted sexual advances towards women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Accusations of sexual harassment against powerful movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

FOREMAN: So what's different? The times, above all else. On the roaring tide of the #MeToo movement, many powerful men are

being held accountable for alleged and in some cases, admitted sexual wrongs. An ABC News/"Washington Post" poll earlier this year found 72 percent of Americans feel sexual harassment is a big problem compared to 17 percent just before Anita Hill made her case.

So, Hill is saying, Kavanaugh's accuser can't be taken lightly. And this time, even some in the judge's corner agree.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR COUNSELOR: She should not be insulted and she should not be ignored.


FOREMAN: Well, I covered Anita Hill, and there are a lot of similarities between then and now. But, Kate, what we don't know if it will be similar is this -- Clarence Thomas, by a very narrow vote, was approved. We don't know if that will be the fate for Brett Kavanaugh.

BOLDUAN: Different allegations, and I have to say, a very different, though, political climate. If it could even get worse, it might be right now.

Thanks, Tom. Appreciate it.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.