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Trump: 'I Feel So Badly' for Kavanaugh; Trump Defends Orders to Declassify Documents Related to Russia Investigation. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 18, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- October 2 -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Sara, thank you. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:09] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Hearing in the balance. The president says he feels sorry for Brett Kavanaugh as the judge's nomination to the Supreme Court hangs in the balance and Washington waits to see if the woman who accused him of assault will testify publicly.

Republicans say she hasn't responded to an invitation to appear before Congress. Democrats say they want a full investigation before she's called to speak. Will Monday's blockbuster public hearing happen as scheduled or be called off?

Declassification warfare. President Trump has ordered that text messages and portions of a secret government warrant tied to the Russian investigation be declassified. But tonight, members of the intelligence community say the president is crossing a red line, giving away secret sources and methods to try to discredit the probe. Will the intelligence community push back against the president?

Cut off. As flooding grows worse in North and South Carolina, major roads are impassable, and people are cut off. Wilmington, North Carolina, is a virtual island, and there is concern the death toll could grow as the waters keep rising. Could those who are stranded be rescued in time?

And new friends, old tricks. Kim Jong-un rolls out the red carpet in North Korea, greeting the president of South Korea, his former enemy, with open arms and an open sun roof. But is the North Korean dictator showing off for the world, even while still up to his old tricks of missile development?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ACOSTA: President Trump repeatedly offered sympathy for Judge Brett Kavanaugh in a news conference late today, saying the Supreme Court nominee is not a man who deserves this. And while he says he wants the process to play out tonight, Mr. Trump is refusing to order the FBI to investigate college Professor Christine Blasey Ford's accusation that Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her when they were teenagers.

Meanwhile, Republican senators are offering Ford the option of testifying in public or in private. Sources tell CNN she hasn't indicated whether she'll take part in any hearing next Monday.

I'll ask Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama about the controversial hearing. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

But first, let's begin at the White House with our correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, the president says he feels badly for Judge Kavanaugh, but he is still leaving a lot unsaid at this point. Right, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is, Jim. And he's hinting that he has a lot more to say, because though President Trump has been pretty measured in his response to these allegations, today we saw the first glimpse that he has his doubts they are true.

President Trump pointed out today that these allegations of this alleged incident were made, or this alleged incident happened several decades ago. And he also sounded confident that Brett Kavanaugh could still be confirmed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's an incredible individual. Great intellect. Great judge.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump standing by his Supreme Court nominee today projecting confidence.

TRUMP: Impeccable history. In every way. In every way.

COLLINS: Even though for most of Washington, Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation is now an open question ahead of a scheduled public hearing with the woman who says he sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.

TRUMP: I feel so badly for him that he's going through this, to be honest with you. I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this.

COLLINS: Kavanaugh has denied the allegation, and the president is blaming Democrats, claiming they waited too long to release the woman's claim.

TRUMP: And because they obstruct, and because they resist. That's the name of their campaign against me.

So I don't want to play into their hands.

COLLINS: Senator Dianne Feinstein was made aware of the allegations earlier this summer, but she says she kept them confidential at the request of the accuser. Trump disagreeing with Senate Democrats who say the FBI should get involved.

TRUMP: The FBI, John, said that they really don't do that. That's not what they do.

COLLINS: The president making no mention of Christine Blasey Ford's name today but urging her to publicly tell her story.

TRUMP: Hopefully, the woman will come forward. State her case.

COLLINS: Trump sounding sure of Kavanaugh's innocence.

TRUMP: He will state his case before representatives of the United States Senate. And then they will vote.

COLLINS: The president says he still hasn't spoken with Kavanaugh, who spent a second day in a row at the White House today with sources describing him as flabbergasted and shaken as the administration mounts a defense.

TRUMP: Judge Kavanaugh is anxious to do it. I don't know about the other party. But Judge Kavanaugh is very anxious to do it.

COLLINS: As Trump vigorously defends his nominee, ordinary moments from Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing are now back in the spotlight.

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

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: No.

[17:05:05] HIRONO: Have you ever faced discipline or entered into a settlement related to this kind of conduct?

KAVANAUGH: No.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Brett Kavanaugh has been at the White House today, working with his confirmation team, making calls to people on Capitol Hill, mounting their defense ahead of that scheduled public hearing on Monday, even though there are still questions about whether or not the accuser is going to attend.

But as for President Trump, he was asked today if he believes this is all politics. He said he didn't want to answer that question today but, Jim, maybe he would in a few days.

ACOSTA: OK. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.

Let's go to Capitol Hill, where at the moment, Republicans say they still intend to go ahead with a Monday public hearing where Kavanaugh and Professor Ford can testify. Let's go to CNN's chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju. He is

watching the negotiations, which are shifting moment by moment.

Manu, when's the latest on whether this hearing will even happen on Monday? Because it sounds like there are now doubts.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are doubts, Jim. This is a very fluid situation all day long. Republicans have been debating how to deal with this.

And at the moment, they do plan to have this Monday hearing, telling her that she can attend either a public or private session. But the Republicans have no appetite to delay this any further, even as Democrats are demanding to reopen the FBI probe and background check before any public hearing, something the president himself has rejected and Republican leaders also are rejecting.

Now, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, made it very clear that she can probably testify publicly or privately, and they plan to move forward, no matter what.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: She's been asking for the opportunity to be heard. And she's going to be given the opportunity to be heard on Monday. As Senator Cornyn pointed out, she can do it privately if she prefers or publicly, if she prefers. Monday is her opportunity.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: If she is not going to be part of the hearing, I think that that -- that would be a very interesting and unfortunate turn of events.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And that last comment from Lisa Murkowski, a very key Republican senator who wanted to have this hearing to understand the -- exactly what is being alleged before deciding how to vote.

But Democrats are calling for just not these two witnesses to testify but also, potentially, a third witness. The man, Mark Judge, the person who was -- was alleged to have been at this incident by Christine Blasey Ford. In her "Washington Post," to "The Washington Post," where he said that that judge was there.

Now, Judge was contacted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he just responded to the committee in a letter from his attorney, saying, quote, "I did not ask to be involved in this matter, nor did anyone ask me to be involved. The only reason I'm involved is because Dr. Christine Blasey Ford remembers me as the other people in the room during the alleged assault. In fact, I have no memory of this alleged incident. Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school, but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford's letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes."

And Jim, no word if there's going to be any sort of effort to subpoena him or Dr. Ford to come. They would need a bipartisan support to do that. But as you can see, no bipartisan support over this nomination so far.

ACOSTA: And Manu, if this hearing does not happen on Monday, how will that impact the vote?

RAJU: It could be very -- it could help Brett Kavanaugh, presumably. Jeff Flake, a key Republican senator who demanded to have this hearing before deciding to have a vote, said to you, Jim, earlier today a very significant comment, that perhaps they should move forward with the vote if Dr. Ford does not attend this hearing.

Both Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski, two key Republican swing votes, also made very clear that they were concerned and puzzled and thought it would be a bad idea for her not to attend. So possibly, this could help Kavanaugh at the end of the day. But still, very unpredictable, this nomination has all sorts of twists and turns and we'll see how Dr. Ford ultimately decides what to do here, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Manu Raju, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama. He's a member of the Homeland Security Committee and will have a key vote in the Senate on judge Kavanaugh.

Senator, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

SEN. DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA: Sure, Jim.

ACOSTA: Do you think that this hearing will even happen on Monday, as you heard Manu Raju talking about this a few moments ago, with Christine Blasey Ford participating?

JONES: You know, Jim, I just don't know at this point. Everything has moved so fast, and things have changed so much. I wish they had not scheduled the hearing until they had a chance to talk to Dr. Ford and to try to work these parameters of what she's comfortable with.

[17:10:03] It takes a lot. This is a very brave person to come out in this kind of spotlight. And it's not the kind of thing you just barrel forward without really talking to her and her counsel to see the best approach, because I think now everyone wants her to testify either publicly or privately.

But to just barrel forward without really spending a little bit of time talking about -- to her about the issues and how best to do that, I think it's just unfortunate that this is all playing out in the media.

ACOSTA: And Ford's lawyer said just yesterday that she's willing, her client's willing to come and testify. Do you understand why she hasn't committed yet to this hearing? At least that's what the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are saying. That they have not committed yet. JONES: No, I don't know. I have not talked to either Ms. Ford or her

counsel. I just know that this has moved very quickly and to set this thing a week.

What I have said from the very beginning when this happened is that both parties need to testify. They need to testify under oath. Well, we need to slow this process down just a little bit. This is just so hyperbolic at this point.

People are just -- you know, there's just different information coming out and different sources every minute. We need to slow this process down, let the American people take a deep breath so that we can get this done right. And I just completely disagree that the FBI shouldn't get involved in this.

The FBI does background checks every time there is a judicial nominee. They did a background check for me on me -- on me when I became United States attorney, and it's not uncommon at all to update a background check and to do it fully and thoroughly. That's what needs to happen before we have any kind of hearing, whether it's public or private, so that the senators have a full breadth of information over what they've got.

ACOSTA: And would you be all right if this hearing were only held in private behind closed doors? Would that be OK with you?

JONES: Well, as long as a U.S. senator, I have access to the transcript, and I see what transpired. I don't think it should be held -- withheld from the Senate. That's part of the problem. We've seen documents being withheld from U.S. senators who are not part of the Judiciary Committee. So as long as it is something that I can view and read, I would be fine with that.

I understand, as an old prosecutor, the sensitivities in a case like this and the reluctance to do things in public. You only have the look at what happened a couple of weeks ago and see how this just could -- could get out of hand.

So I'm fine with a private process, if that's what she would prefer to do, as long as I've got access to the transcript and/or a video, however they do it.

ACOSTA: And what message will that send, if Republicans go through with a hearing on Monday without Ford participating?

JONES: Well, it --

ACOSTA: What do you make of that?

JONES: Jim, it just sends the message they've had all along they are just rushing this nomination through. It's an artificial deadline. This nomination has been pushed and pushed.

You know, we are still missing documents that Senator Grassley asked for that said were important to this nominee's consideration. When this nomination was made, the president and his staff knew full well the body of work of Brett Kavanaugh.

If we can pause this a little bit, let this -- let the FBI do an update of the investigation. It will give us more time to let other documents come in that should have been in before the last hearing, and that's the way this process should go. There is nothing that -- there is no reason why this should be pushed forward right now. It is costing the --

ACOSTA: But Senator, let me ask you this. Because the president, you're accusing Republicans of doing things. The president, other Republicans have said that Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee, should have come up with this information sooner. That they're just hearing about this at the 11th hour.

Is there any validity to that complaint?

JONES: Well, you know, look. This is a tough spot when you have someone who's requesting anonymity. You know, we have sources like this in a prosecutorial world all the time.

It's a very tough spot, but the fact of the matter is, we are where we are now. Now, we can't let what happened back last summer dictate our whole constitutional responsibility to get to all the facts. We've got to plant this right now, to move forward and to just slow this process down just a little bit.

Jim, you know, the Supreme Court has operated with eight justices many, many times in the past. They can do so again for -- after the first Monday in October. To give the Senate the opportunity to find out all the facts so that every senator can make a full, fair consideration of this nominee that's fair to Dr. Ford but also very fair to Judge Kavanaugh.

ACOSTA: And just to ask you about something else the president said. He basically said that he felt sorry for Judge Kavanaugh earlier today and said that he wishes this hadn't happened to him.

It was strikingly similar to the reaction he had in the Roy Moore situation, as you're intimately familiar with, having run against Roy Moore down in Alabama.

Why is it that the president seems to always side with somebody who's been accused of something like this? Did that comment from the president jump out at you earlier today?

[17:15:07] JONES: Of course it did, Jim. I mean, it was the -- it was the same thing. As long as someone that the president supports denies it, that's good enough for him. And that's just unfortunate. That's just not the -- that's not my duty. It's our role as a senator. I don't think it's any of the other 99 senators' roles. We shouldn't just take the president's word just because there's a denial.

We need to know the facts. So I was not surprised to hear the president say that. I think it's just unfortunate that we -- that he says something when we're in a process of trying to find the facts. ACOSTA: And if you do reach the conclusion that this accusation is true, and it is disqualifying, how are you going to make that determination? And what do you need to see in order to make up your mind that this accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is telling the truth?

JONES: You know, that's -- I think every senator is going to have a different set of parameters on that. I've prosecuted and defended cases for almost 40 years. And so, I think I've got pretty good instincts in judging witnesses' credibility, both hers, as well as Judge Kavanaugh's.

So I'll just have to to see what they say, see if there's corroboration, just go through the litany of things that, in my gut, tells me which side is telling the truth and not. And hopefully, there will be some other evidence. I think this committee ought to subpoena Mark Judge to come forward, because I guarantee you his --

ACOSTA: You think there should be a subpoena?

JONES: Absolutely. Because you can count on the fact that that letter, his response, is going to be entered in the record by someone, and that needs to be tested, as well. And I just think this committee if he doesn't want to do it, and they're going to go forward with a hearing, they need subpoena him. Let him say that and let some senators or someone cross-examine him.

ACOSTA: All right. Senator Doug Jones from Alabama, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Stay with us. We'll have more on the confusion and partisan bickering clouding judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.

And next, President Trump defends his order to selectively declassify and release documents and text messages related to the Russia investigation. Is there anything to his claim that it's all about transparency?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:21:28] ACOSTA: We're following new, important developments in the Russia investigation. President Trump today defended his orders to selectively declassify secret documents and official text messages related to the Russia investigation.

Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, has been working his sources on this. Obviously, this is a pretty unprecedented demand from the president, and it's unclear how all of this is going to play out.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We talk about how many unprecedented demands or how many times have we said that concerning this president. And we're just living very different times, and I think the intelligence community and the FBI and Department of Justice, for that matter, just really have to adjust to this now.

It is a very interesting, different kind of request, certainly, from the president to tell them to go ahead and declassify a lot of this material, considering the fact that we are still in the middle, very much in the middle of this investigation, especially with Paul Manafort still now cooperating, what information that's going to come out, we don't really know yet. Perhaps it could somehow injure the investigation, and that's really the big concern.

And I understand the president's issue with transparency. And here's how he explained it today in the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We want transparency. What I want is I want total transparency. This is a witch hunt. Republicans are seeing it. The Democrats know it's a witch hunt, too, but they don't want to admit it, because that's not good politics for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PROKUPECZ: And perhaps, you know, that is the case, that he does want transparency. But there will be a time and a place for that, perhaps at the end of this investigation when all this is over.

The other thing, Jim, I think, that's important here is a lot of the critics and a lot of people, certainly in the intelligence community, formers, currents, will tell you that the only reason he's doing this is try and injure the Russia investigation, to discredit the work that the FBI has been doing. Certainly, the big thing here is to discredit the dossier, which he himself has so personally taken as an attack on him.

And then when you look at the text messages, the people whose text messages he wants released, what they all have in common is that these are all people that he has publicly -- have come under attack. He's criticized them.

And here's the list of those folks. It's former FBI director James Comey; former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe; of course, Peter Strzok, who worked on the Russia investigation; Lisa Page; and then recently, the Justice Department official, Bruce Ohr. All these people the president has attacked publicly on Twitter, including the fact that he's ordered some of these folks to lose their security clearance. Obviously, he fired the former FBI director.

So all of this, clearly, when you really, really look at this, you know, you have to wonder whether or not the president, if there's some self-motive here, something for himself in terms of why he's doing this.

ACOSTA: And it makes you wonder how Robert Mueller can conduct an investigation that's thorough and without a sort of partisan influence when the president can just say, "Release this, and I want that."

PROKUPECZ: That's right. ACOSTA: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very much.

Coming up, President Trump's latest words of sympathy for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Will the woman who accuses Kavanaugh of sexual assault as a teenager come to testify on Capitol Hill?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:29:10] ACOSTA: We're following breaking news. Amid confusion and bitter partisan bickering over Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, President Trump says he feels badly for the judge.

Up on Capitol Hill, Republicans now are offering to hold either a public or private hearing for Professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her years ago when they were both teenagers, an accusation Kavanaugh denies.

Let's get the insights of our political and legal experts. And Mark Preston, we heard the president at this press conference earlier today and in that spray in the Oval Office sounding more measured than he has in the past. He's been doing this over the last couple of days talking about Kavanaugh.

Although at one point, he seemed to feel sorry or expressed how he felt sorry for Kavanaugh and couldn't remember the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford's, name.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

ACOSTA: I mean, it does sound like he has a problem. Every one of these scenarios, he seems to stand with the accused and not the accuser.

PRESTON: Well, correct. And in this case, I'm not too surprised by it, either. And in the case of let's see how far can the bar be lowered for the president for us to say, "Look, he really acted presidential so far." But in many ways, he has acted presidential.

And you have to wonder who's the one who's influencing him right now to not go out and to tweet outrageous comments or to attack the accuser or to call into question her credibility. And I really think there's only one person right now in Washington who could hold him back, and that would be Mitch McConnell. I really do think that quietly, Mitch McConnell is -- is expressing to President Trump that you need to hold your fire on this one in order for us to get the Supreme Court pick through.

ACOSTA: And Bianna Golodryga, I mean, how much of -- are the midterms having an impact on all of this, do you think? The president lowering his rhetoric, keeping his cool? Although we saw today the way he was sort of, you know, siding with Kavanaugh and not remembering Christine Blasey Ford's name and blaming Dianne Feinstein for all this. You sort of felt the old Trump creeping back into all this.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and remember with Mitch McConnell, he was, from all the reporting, not advocating for Brett Kavanaugh to be the No. 1 pick for different reasons, obviously, not related to this latest accusation.

But look, as we know with the president, I think it's a fair assumption to say he'll back you until it's not serving his best interests.

But in the broader scheme of things, look, this is a win -- a lose- lose for everybody. There's no winner in this circumstance. And whatever people think -- if this hearing does take place on Monday, whatever people think may come out of it, I'm not sure what will come out of it. We're not going to get a definitive answer, I can't imagine, as to whether or not somebody's lying or this did take place or anything of that sort.

So, you have a complete male from the Republican sideline of male senators on the judiciary panel asking questions that they should be asking, but optically, that doesn't look so good to women at home and to women voters. And I think that's why you're seeing this real fine line they're walking.

ACOSTA: And Joey Jackson, I mean, this is shaping up to be something of a show trial on Monday, if we see both Kavanaugh and Ford talking about all of this.

And Chairman Grassley on the Judiciary Committee has said he wants to limit this to just the two of them. Obviously, Democrats are saying they'd like to see more participants. And earlier on this hour, Senator Doug Jones from Alabama said he wants to see Mark Judge, the friend who was allegedly in the room when this occurred, allegedly occurred. He wants him subpoenaed to testify.

How does this play out, do you think, if this is something of a show trial, putting the judge, Brett Kavanaugh, on trial?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Very poorly, Jim. And you have it right. A show trial. And it doesn't need to be.

I mean, I get that, you know, the Republicans want confirmation and they want it swiftly. But should we not err towards what's true, whatever that is? Should there not be a protocol and a process that deals with this? Have we not learned anything in 27 years from when we had something like this occur before? Should there not have been the development of rules so that we can get at the truth?

So what good is it when you have two parties come in, right? The doctor will state her piece with regard to what she recalls happened, and of course, the judge will unequivocally deny it. That's not what trials are all about. When I'm in a courtroom, there's a probing of the truth. The victim is in, and she's allowed testify.

Are there any recent outcry witnesses who might have been there who she conveyed the message to at the time? Are there family members or others who she conveyed the message to? How about her therapist? How about her husband? How about other people who can come forward to otherwise corroborate and indicate did it occur or did it not? And the judge, to be clear, has his basis and his people who can testify, as well.

As to character, as to judgment, as to comportment, as to demeanor, as to how he comported himself in high school. If there's going to be a process, it should not, as you point out rightfully, Jim, be a show trial. It should be a trial about substance. It should be a trial about truth. It should be a trial of getting at the heart of the matter, and that's called the facts.

ACOSTA: And, Susan Hennessey, I want to play for you a piece of video that we just found. It shows Brett Kavanaugh back in 2015, getting back to what Joey Jackson was saying a few moments ago about what happened at Georgetown Prep, what happened during the high school days of Brett Kavanaugh, and here he's Brett Kavanaugh talking about this. Video that's been unearthed by our team in just the last few minutes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Fortunately, we had a good saying that we've held firm to to this day, as the dean was reminding me before, before the talk, which is "What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep." That's been a good thing for all of us, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Obviously, Susan, not a conclusive, you know, piece of video that says, you know, that he did anything. But it is -- it does speak to this notion that perhaps, you know, there are portions of his childhood that he would rather not come to light, I suppose.

[17:35:11] What do you make of how all of this is being handled and this possibility that we may have a hearing on Monday without Christine Blasey Ford?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. So I think that probably is more of an unfortunate joke, certainly one that he'll regret now.

You know, but I think it's important to realize that this is not a criminal trial. This is the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice. And we -- what we have here is a credible accusation.

Now, that doesn't mean it's a conclusive accusation. It doesn't mean it's proof. It doesn't mean that people have to believe it. But it is a credible accusation.

And in these circumstances, it is the nominee that carries the burden to prove to the Senate and the American people that he is fit for a lifetime appointment at the highest court of the United States.

And so, you know, there really is nothing necessarily suspicious about Dr. Ford taking her time here. Congressional testimony is difficult under the best circumstances. This might be the actual worst circumstances under which to testify.

You know, and so I really do think that what we would expect to see from Republicans and Democrats that actually wanted to be getting the truth here was take their foot off the gas, you know, take the politics out of it a little bit to the extent that's possible, and actually engage, as Joey said, in some serious fact finding. You know, this isn't just politics. They have a constitutional obligation, constitutional function to discharge here.

PRESTON: Right. But where we are right now, though, is we are in such unchartered waters right now. And we have to be careful when we come out and say, whenever somebody makes an accusation, an allegation, we have to be careful not to prevent other people from coming forward. We absolutely have to.

But because there is an allegation or an accusation, I do think as a society, and Joey probably sees this in the courts all the time, that we are quick to convict. I mean, if there's an allegation, then he is absolutely guilty right away. And that in myself, I think, has accelerated in the Trump era, where we're digesting news so quick, we're decisions so quick right now that it's crazy.

But I do agree with all of you, that this should be shelved, this should be paused and there should be a deep investigation to this.

HENNESSEY: I don't necessarily think that's -- that's fair at all. We have actually developed sort of some criteria by which we decide whether or not an accusation that remains an accusation is credible. If they told somebody contemporaneously. If they told someone before they developed the motive in this particular circumstance. So I do think that there is --

PRESTON: I'm not questioning whether she's, you know, but --

HENNESSEY: -- some different between out-of-the blue accusations and what we are seeing here.

PRESTON: No, no, no. Let me be very clear, and then I'll stop talking. The bottom line is, I'm not questioning whether -- whether she's telling the truth or not. I'm just saying, let us not run quickly to, you know, conviction because -- because of something being said. And I think we all are in agreement that this has to be, you know -- go out longer than a week. Several weeks.

JACKSON: And let the FBI be involved. What's this issue now with Trump saying they don't want to be involved? I thought the president and the Department of Justice were in charge of the federal government. Should there not be vetting by the FBI?

What is the rush here? What is the pushing, pushing, pushing? Everybody deserves the truth. And when you have the best law enforcement agency in the world, ought they not do their job? I think they should.

ACOSTA: We certainly need to get to the truth in all of this.

GOLODRYGA: What's concerning, also, and Doug Jones -- Doug Jones told you, though, he himself said that each senator's going to basically go with their own gut. That's the concerning part, barring any more evidence going forward.

ACOSTA: All right. Thanks to all of you. And we do want to get to the truth in all this. Appreciate that very much. Thank you.

We have more breaking news ahead. Rivers are rising as the rain dumped by Hurricane Florence floods homes, businesses, and highways across the Carolinas. Stay with us for a live update from the disaster zone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:27] ACOSTA: Looking at live pictures from Fayetteville, North Carolina, where the flooding disaster is getting worse, not better. Tonight, it's the same story in parts of both North and South Carolina. North Carolina's governor warns the next 48 hours will be extremely critical as the runoff from Hurricane Florence pushes rivers farther over their banks, making more rescues necessary. The storm is blamed for at least 32 deaths in three states.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Fayetteville. Miguel, it is a bad situation there. It seems to be getting worse. What are you seeing?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is going to get worse, at least the next 12 hours until the Cape Fear and many, many rivers and tributaries crest not only here in Fayetteville but even downstream from here in the days ahead.

I want to show you what's happening here in Fayetteville right now. That is the Grove Street Bridge. They may have to shut that bridge soon. You can see a large piece of debris coming down the Cape Fear River there.

We are standing on the Person Street Bridge. We have a drone up ahead. I'm going to ask him to start moving toward a train bridge, which is right over here just past the Person Street Bridge.

There has been debris gathering on this bridge all day long. Authorities think it will hold, but they are concerned that it might not. There's so much water pushing on that bridge right now that is pushing water over into other neighborhoods. They have tried every which way to tell people don't go back to your homes. The storm may be over, but there is more coming.

I spoke to the city manager earlier. Here's -- here's his message to people here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: The rain's long gone. This river is still rising.

DOUG HEWETT, FAYETTEVILLE CITY MANAGER: Yes. And that's what's still concerning is that we have a beautiful Carolina day out around us. But behind us you can see water's still rising. And many of our residents we are concerned will become complacent and will try to come back to their homes and not heed our evacuation warning. But we have 12,000 residents who could be in harm's way if the river continues to rise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Now, one of the things you're looking at here is a light post. That should be sort of the end of a boat ramp where the water normally is, so we are 20 to 30 feet above that.

Authorities here say that they have done everything they can. They believe that they have done everything that is possible and now they just have to wait for this massive bulge of water to make its way down river.

Actually, if look at this, there's a truck going across this bridge right now. That's fairly brave, just testing it out, making sure. It looks like it may be moving but, clearly, it's -- they're good enough to actually drive across there, which is quite amazing.

Authorities hope they have done everything. All they have to do now is wait. Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Miguel, some incredible live pictures from that drone camera there. Thanks so much for bringing that to us. We appreciate it.

Coming up, Kim Jong-un orders a glorious reception for a visit by South Korea's President. But beyond the spectacle, is anything really changing on the Korean peninsula?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:52] ACOSTA: And we are seeing remarkable pictures from North Korea. Kim Jong-un is hosting South Korea's President for a carefully choreographed visit, showing off just how well the two leaders get along. This is their third summit this year, but is anything really changing?

CNN's Brian Todd has been checking with his sources. Brian, what are they saying?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, they are saying that Kim Jong-un, tonight, is fully engaged in his own charm offensive. He is using his personal dynamic with President Trump to his own advantage and working his relationship with the South Korean President as well, using pageantry and flattery to deflect attention from his quiet efforts to keep building his nuclear arsenal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): It was the kind of greeting, elaborate and effusive, that only Kim Jong-un could stage, welcoming the President of South Korea, once his rival, to his Northern capital Pyongyang today with a military review.

Later, peering out of an open-top limousine, Moon Jae-in joined the North Korean dictator in waving to the staged adoring crowd, followed by a hyped-up orchestra performance with dancers and K-Pop music. Tonight, the South Korean president is spending the night in this

once-hostile country, part of a three-day mission that marks his third meeting with Kim just this year. Analysts say it's all part of a carefully crafted diplomatic and P.R. offensive by the brutal dictator but warned the optimistic optics do not reveal reality.

LAURA ROSENBERGER, SENIOR FELLOW AND DIRECTOR OF THE ALLIANCE FOR SECURING DEMOCRACY, THE GERMAN MARSHALL FUND OF THE UNITED STATES: The problem that we have at the moment is the images coming out of Pyongyang, smiling, happy people, you know, I think projects an image that everything is moving forward in a positive trajectory when that seems to really have absolutely nothing to do with the nuclear issue.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say Kim appears to be engaging in a very coy, calculated strategy, not conducting any missile tests, not even displaying long-range missiles in his most recent parade, and letting President Trump portray a denuclearization process that's still on track like the President suggested in this recent tweet complimenting Kim.

Quote, we will both prove everyone wrong. There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other.

But at the same time, Kim is quietly, cleverly building his nuclear arsenal.

JEFFREY FELTMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS: There seems to be an ongoing attempt by the North Koreans to continue to make fissile material, to continue to build nuclear devices, and that's not good news.

TODD (voice-over): The U.S. nuclear watchdog recently said not only have North Korea's nuclear activities continued, but Kim's regime isn't allowing U.N. inspectors to access the sites.

After the Singapore summit, Trump administration officials told CNN that U.S. military intelligence believes Kim has no intention of completely giving up his nuclear arsenal and would, in reality, hide his weapons.

Experts think he's taking a page from what Pakistan and India did when they were ramping up their nuclear programs, building their arsenals on the sly while deflecting attempts to get them to draw down. Only now Kim is adding a new personal wrinkle to his relationship with President Trump.

ROSENBERG: I think that, certainly, Kim Jong-un has identified a space here where there is a vulnerability for him to exploit, both in terms of the President's desire to be flattered and his desire to personally claim credit for things.

TODD (voice-over): Despite that, experts say, Trump should get some credit for creating a personal channel to Kim.

FELTMAN: I think it's inherently good news that there are channels of communication that are open at all levels that would prevent an accidental war from breaking out. A year ago, it would've been easy to misinterpret an incident and to think that war was about to start and war could have happened accidentally.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Still, analysts worry tonight that, going forward, Kim Jong- un's just going to keep getting better and better at this manipulation, not only using Donald Trump's friendly words to manipulate the President but also playing the South Korean President like he might be doing now in Pyongyang with their talk of a possible peace treaty and trying to drive a wedge in the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea.

That could well happen in the months ahead, Jim.

ACOSTA: Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Coming up, the latest on the breaking news on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. President Trump defends Judge Brett Kavanaugh while Republican senators offer the woman accusing the judge of sexual assault the option of testifying in public or private.

[17:55:08] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ACOSTA: Happening now, breaking news. Hearing uncertainty. As the President expresses sympathy for his Supreme Court nominee, it's not clear Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will both testify before senators on Monday. Tonight, partisan feuding over the terms, the timing, and what happens if Ford doesn't show.

[18:00:00] Stormy's story. The porn star offers salacious new details about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump. Is her new book designed to prove her accusations once and for all? I'll ask Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti.