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Thousands in Danger in Carolinas Tonight as Rivers Rise Higher; Kim Jong-un Welcomes South Korean Leader for Summit; Will Kavanaugh Accuser Testify?; Interview With California Congressman Eric Swalwell; Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 18, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:01]

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Stormy's stories. The porn star offers salacious new details about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump. Is her new book is designed to prove her accusations once and for all? I will ask her Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti.

Growing threat. Urgent new warnings tonight about the flooding danger in the Carolinas, as Florence moves on, but rivers keep rising. A top emergency official says the next 48 hours are crucial.

And pardon-proof deal. Experts are studying the fine print of Paul Manafort's agreement to cooperate with the special counsel. Is it specifically designed to discourage the president from pardoning his former campaign chairman?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta, and you're in the THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ACOSTA: We are following breaking news on the allegations hanging over the president's Supreme Court nominee.

Tonight, Mr. Trump says Brett Kavanaugh doesn't deserve to have his confirmation process in question. But he says the process of hearing from the judge's accuser should move forward. Republicans and Democrats are at odds over how a planned hearing on Monday should play out if it happens at all.

GOP leaders say Christine Blasey Ford has not yet agreed to testify in public or in private about her claim she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh flatly denies the allegation.

I will get reaction from House Judiciary Committee member Eric Swalwell. And I will talk to Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, about his client's new memoir.

Our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by, but first to CNN's White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, the president continues to defend Kavanaugh. He did it again today.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim.

And President Trump has been pretty measured in his response that we have seen to these allegations made against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. But today we saw publicly what we know is happening privately behind closed doors, and that's that President Trump has his doubts about these accusations.

Today, he pointed to the fact that the alleged incident happened decades ago. He pointed to Judge Kavanaugh's record. And, Jim, he made clear that he thinks he is still going to be confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's an incredible individual, great intellect, great judge.

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

TRUMP: Impeccable history in every way, in every way.

K. COLLINS: Even though, for most of Washington, Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation is now an open question ahead of a scheduled public hearing with a 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.

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

TRUMP: 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.

K. 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 disagreed with Senate Democrats who say the FBI should get involved.

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

K. 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. K. 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.

K. COLLINS: The president says he still hasn't spoken with Kavanaugh, who spent the 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.

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

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

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: No.

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

KAVANAUGH: No.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

K. COLLINS: Now, Jim, President Trump is someone who has been accused of sexual assault himself by at least 11 women. He's denied those allegations, weathered them, and made it here to the White House.

And now he's hoping that his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, is going to be able to do the same, deny those allegations, weather them and make it on to the Supreme Court -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.

Let's go to Capitol Hill for the latest on whether that Senate hearing will even happen on Monday and whether Kavanaugh and his accuser will both be there.

Let's go to CNN's congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.

Phil, you have been working your sources. What are you hearing tonight?

[18:05:00]

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is still very much an open when.

At this point Senate Republicans still have not heard from Christine Blasey Ford on her lawyer. And they have made clear, Monday is the opportunity, Monday is the venue. If Christine Blasey Ford wants to testify, that's when it is supposed to happen, whether open or closed.

But, Democrats, Jim, they have made very clear that is not nearly good enough, that is not nearly enough time, and there should be no deadline on a nomination that's this important with allegations that are this serious.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The public hearing on assault allegations against President Trump's Supreme Court nominee may not happen after all.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: She can do it privately if she prefers or publicly if she prefers. Monday is her opportunity.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: This is a test for the United States Senate on how we handle accusations of sexual harassment and assault. I am hoping this Senate passes it.

MATTINGLY: And if it does take place, questions about who will testify.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Chairman Grassley said there would only be two witnesses. That's simply inadequate, unfair, wrong, and a desire not to get at the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

MATTINGLY: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley telling radio host Hugh Hewitt the hearing would only include two witnesses, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Professor Christine Blasey Ford, and that Ford had still not responded to the committee's request for a follow- up phone call or its hearing invitation.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: We have reached out to her in the last 36 hours three or four times by e-mail, and we have not heard from them. So it kind of raises the question, do they want to -- do they want to come to the public hearing or not?

MATTINGLY: While all 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee called for the hearing to include more witnesses, including Kavanaugh's former classmate Mark Judge, seen here in a Georgetown prep yearbook. Ford identified him as being in the room when the alleged assault occurred.

Republicans continue to stand firmly behind Kavanaugh.

MCCONNELL: An accusation which he has unequivocally denied and which stands at odds with every other piece of the overwhelming positive testimony we have received.

MATTINGLY: And two key Republican, Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, making clear Ford not testifying would be a missed opportunity.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: She's now being given an opportunity to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to answer questions, and I really hope that she doesn't pass up that opportunity.

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

MATTINGLY: Democrats, who aides say were not consulted before the hearing was scheduled, claim the process has already run afoul and want to delay the hearing until the FBI conducts a further background investigation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Jim, right now, while they still have not heard from Dr. Ford, the committee has heard from somebody else, Mark Judge, who I mentioned in the piece. His lawyer sent a letter to both Republicans and Democrats saying he is not planning to testify, does not want to testify, but also says this.

"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 person 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 described."

So, again, Jim, more questions than answers right now. As it currently stands, there's a hearing scheduled on Monday. Who will actually show up? Well, at this point we are just going to have the wait and see.

ACOSTA: All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you very much for that.

Another important story we are following tonight, President Trump is leaving the door open to declassifying more documents related to the Russia investigation, this as Democrats are calling the unprecedented move an abuse of power.

CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez is here.

And, Evan, the president was asked about this declassification and he went off, as he often does, about what he calls the Russia witch-hunt. But, I mean, you would have to be the most partisan Trump supporters to deny the fact that this is very drastic and very unprecedented.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is unprecedented.

And, look, it is being done over the objection of the intelligence community, over the objection of the Justice Department, his own Trump appointees in the Justice Department and the FBI.

And even Senator Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that he doesn't think it is a good idea. Look, a lot of documents that he's trying to get redacted are things like this, right? There's a lot of pages that look like this, and so we're going to see more parts of those pages, but more significantly there are a number of pages that have to do with the backside of what the FBI was doing, interviews that they did.

[18:10:01]

Some of it might be foreign intelligence from some of the partner countries overseas that provided intelligence in order to support this application for surveillance of Carter Page.

And that is where I think Democrats and others are giving pause, saying that this could affect sources and methods. The president doesn't buy it. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(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 is a witch-hunt too, but they don't want to admit it because that is not good politics for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: And obviously the president is focused on this investigation, which sort of gives you a hint as to why he wants this declassified.

But here is the rub for the president, right? His vow for transparency could very much come back to bite him. Next year, let's say, if there's a Democratic control of the House and they issue subpoenas and they demand to see some of the underlying documents of the Mueller investigation, things that the president and his legal team, things that the White House do not want released, because they're going to claim executive privilege or attorney-client privilege, all of those things will suddenly be fair game for transparency.

The president should be careful how much transparency he is asking for, because he may regret this come next year.

ACOSTA: He likes transparency when it helps him.

PEREZ: Right.

ACOSTA: All right, Evan Perez, thank you very much.

Joining me now, Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Jim.

ACOSTA: I assume you see all of this as an abuse of the president's powers. Does this risk revealing sources and methods, as Evan was just talking about? SWALWELL: Yes, it does.

Jim, we are in the thick of a lawless presidency right now where a subject of a serious federal investigation and also a counterintelligence investigation is selectively leaking out information with respect to that investigation.

Now, if you take a step back, you remember early on in the presidency President Trump accused Obama officials of spying on him or abusing their power to go after Trump campaign officials, and he never once when challenged to declassify any evidence that would show that produced that evidence.

But now here, when he thinks there's even some evidence that helps him, he is trying to undermine the intelligence community. But you know what, Jim? He can put this out there. I have read everything he is seeking to declassify. The American people will see that there was a strong case to be made early on when this investigation started to look at the concerning contacts between Donald Trump, his family, his campaign and his businesses and the Russians.

ACOSTA: So you're saying this may not be as helpful as he thinks? You have seen all of this and you don't think it they helps him?

SWALWELL: Well, what has been as helpful as President Trump and Devin Nunes have thought, they have put out their memos. They have put out other Carter Page documents, and we still see high confidence among the American people in the Mueller investigation.

Guilty pleas are being obtained nearly every month. People are going to jail for what they did in this investigation. And so, you know, he can declassify all he wants. I will just say this, Jim. Maybe Devin Nunes will follow his lead and declassify and publish all of the transcripts that the Republicans told the American people they would see in the Russia investigation that they are still hiding today.

ACOSTA: And the president has the authority to declassify any document he wants, but do you think the Justice Department should comply with this?

Is there any mechanism that would allow them to say, no, we're not doing this?

SWALWELL: Well, they should do all they can to protect life.

And a lot of times, people cooperate with the U.S. government, whether they're foreigners or Americans, and they risk their lives to do so. And so they shouldn't do anything that jeopardizes someone's life just because this president wants to change the news of the day.

ACOSTA: And does the release of these text messages raise questions about witness intimidation? Because it sounds as if the president is just seeking to release documents and texts pertaining to people that he's been lashing out at on Twitter.

SWALWELL: Yes. You know, this president has hit bingo when it comes to all of the different, you know, post-investigation crimes one could commit, from witness tampering, jury tampering, obstruction of justice, intimidation of witnesses.

And, you know, while there are not Republicans in Congress who are willing to investigate that, the American people, I think, in about 49 days when they go to the polls will elect a Congress that will take that seriously.

And I can promise you that the Mueller team is also looking at this as well, if they are able to do their job and follow all of the evidence.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you about the significance of Paul Manafort's cooperation agreement. Some legal analysts have noted that the deal would make things difficult if he did receive a pardon from President Trump. What does that tell you?

SWALWELL: Well, it tells me that, you know, they -- Paul Manafort was facing a lot of time, and he struck an agreement because he could provide details that could not otherwise be obtained.

[18:15:03]

And so I don't believe that federal investigators would have struck that agreement if they thought that, you know, Paul Manafort had a way, an escape clause, if you will, with a pardon.

We also hope, Jim, that Paul Manafort, who was very close with the Russians, can fill in intelligence gaps that may exist about Russian operations. So, hopefully, it is not just cooperation with respect to this case, but just about what the Russians intend to do and have done in our democracy.

ACOSTA: And your feeling is, if the president pardons Paul Manafort, that is going to trigger a red line for your and other Democrats in both houses of Congress?

SWALWELL: I would just see that as, you know, another exhibit in an investigation that will take place once we have a Congress that's willing to investigate this president.

ACOSTA: And let's turn to the accusation of sexual assault against President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

I know you're not in the Senate, obviously, but Kavanaugh's accuser, as you know, Christine Blasey Ford, she has not yet committed to the hearing that the Senate judiciary Republicans have scheduled for Monday.

The man who she says witnessed the assault, Mark Judge, says he will not testify. What is the appropriate next step in all of this, do you think?

SWALWELL: Well, I think it is just to slow down. And, you know, right now, I'm wondering, Jim, what is the damn rush by Senate Republicans to try and force this through? You have a credible allegation against somebody who would have a lifetime appointment. And, as a former prosecutor, a number of times, I worked with sexual assault victims, and I saw that, you know, when they are assaulted and abused and traumatized they each handle it in a different way.

But I do see different rings of truth from what's been presented so far. I also know that no sexual assault victim is given a manual the day after they're victimized and told, this is how you're supposed to handle it for the rest of your life.

So the best thing we can do for the dignity of this victim is to investigate it fully and not try to rush this through just because of some arbitrary deadline that the Senate has put in place.

ACOSTA: OK.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

ACOSTA: Just ahead, the X-rated details in Stormy Daniels' new tell- all about her alleged affair with President Trump. She also throws in a surprising anecdote about Hillary Clinton.

I will ask Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, what his client is hoping to achieve with this new book. He joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:53]

ACOSTA: Tonight, we're getting our first look at Stormy Daniels' new tell-all book, including salacious details about her alleged affair with President Trump.

The porn star also claiming she was in the room when Mr. Trump received an unusual phone call from Hillary Clinton.

Let's go to CNN national correspondent Sara Sidner.

Sara, you have obtained Stormy Daniels' book. How does it read?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is an incredible read.

And when she says full disclosure, she means full disclosure. The details stick in your head, the way that she has put all of these details down, but she is not just talking about her relationship with Donald Trump. She is not just talking about what happened afterwards with the $130,000 hush payment.

She is talking about her life. And there are some extremely disturbing details about what happened to her as a child.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SIDNER (voice-over): In her tell-all book, Stormy Daniels writes that her first sighting of Donald Trump in 2006 in his hotel suite in Lake Tahoe was shocking.

"Trump came swooping in wearing black silk pajamas and slippers," she writes. "'What are you doing?' I yelled. 'Go put some F-ing clothes on.'"

She writes that he changed, and they both joked about his hair. "I pointed to his hair. 'What's going on with this?' 'I know,' he said with a smile. 'It's ridiculous.'"

She says the two talked about family. "What would your wife think of you being here with me?" Stormy writes? "'Oh, don't worry about that,' he said, 'It is not a big deal. And, anyway, we have separate bedrooms.'"

She writes Trump then brought out a picture of Melania holding their son, Barron, who was just four months old at the time. And when Daniels came out of the bathroom, she claims Trump was lying on the bed in his underwear. They had sex.

She then describes his genitalia in great detail. "His penis is distinctive in a certain way," she writes, proof, her attorney, Michael Avenatti, says, she is tired of being called a liar by Trump's people.

Daniels says, the night after her sexual encounter with Trump, he invited her to a club. She showed up to find Trump and NFL Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger talking. She writes: "Trump eventually suggested Roethlisberger walk her to her hotel room."

At the door, Daniels writes, Roethlisberger asked her a question while pushing lightly on her door. "How about a good night kiss? 'I was terrified,' she writes. 'I am rarely terrified.' He stood outside, not leaving. Every now and again, he would knock, rapping his knuckles in a line low along the door. 'Come on,' he repeated in a singsong voice. 'I won't tell.' He eventually left."

CNN reached out to Roethlisberger for comment. We have not heard back. But in January, after a few of the details came out in "In Touch" magazine, Roethlisberger's agent said Roethlisberger was aware of it, but had no intention of addressing the story.

President Trump has never spoken her name in public, nor admitted to any sexual tryst, but his spokespeople and attorneys have denied it ever happened again and again.

Trump and Daniels allegedly met months later at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She reveals, while in his room, as the two were watching TV, Hillary Clinton called.

Clinton was vying for the Democratic presidential nomination against Barack Obama. "When he hung up, he was effusive about Hillary. 'I love her,' he said. 'She is so smart,'" Daniel writes.

[18:25:09]

Fast-forward almost a decade to the Trump and Clinton campaigns, and you would never know it.

TRUMP: Lying, crooked Hillary. I love to say it, because she is a liar.

SIDNER: Daniels also reveals she was raped as a child. She writes it happened repeatedly by a man who lived next door to one of her friends. "I was 9. I was a child, and then I wasn't," she writes. "He was raping Vanessa, so I put myself between them, continually offering myself up, so he would leave her alone."

Daniels says a school counselor called her a liar when she revealed the rape.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: And she says she was careful she did not reveal the real name of her friend who was also raped.

Clearly, Stormy Daniels wants the world to know about her. And most of the book is about her early life and her time as she spent as a porn star and how she became a director, but she certainly goes into great detail about Donald Trump -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Sara Sidner, thank you for that.

Joining me now, Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti.

Michael, thanks for joining us.

Let me ask you, what does your client hope to accomplish by going into this level of detail in her book, especially about the president?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Well, two things, Jim.

First of all, she wants the American people to learn about her life and her journey thus far in her life and learn about her background. The majority of the book is not about Donald Trump. It is about how she grew up and what she's been through.

And I think people are going to be very, very moved by the book. I know the first time I read the manuscript, I was very moved by it. This is an incredible woman. She has been through quite the journey, and I think people are going to be very intrigued and very moved, again, like I said, when they read it.

And then, secondly, Jim, she's included a lot of the details relating to Donald Trump because she's tired of being called a liar. She has been called a liar by Sarah Sanders repeatedly, by other people at the White speaking on behalf of Donald Trump.

Michael Cohen has repeatedly called her a liar. People that work for Michael Cohen, who recently pled guilty, of course, and is a criminal, those individuals have called her a liar. (CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: So, is she just trying to get revenge with this book? Is this just to embarrass the president?

AVENATTI: No, no, no, not at all, Jim.

She wants people to believe her, and she wants people to have the details so that they are more likely to believe her. And I'm anxious to see what Michael Cohen's response is going to be, what Sarah Sanders' response is going to be, what Donald Trump's response is going to be relating to the details in this book.

Are they going to come out and call my client a liar once again? I hope they do, because we're going to double down.

ACOSTA: And what more can you tell us about this phone call Stormy Daniels says she overheard between President Trump and Hillary Clinton? Because it sounds like, you know, the way the president, I guess then citizen Trump at the time, talked about Hillary Clinton is very different than what we heard during the campaign.

AVENATTI: Well, I think the content of that call is consistent with what Donald Trump said about Hillary Clinton prior to deciding he wanted to run for the election in 2016.

I think, at one point in time, he contributed to her campaign. I believe that they were at each other's family functions from time to time, weddings and things like that. And I think that this call is consistent with what Donald Trump said then, before he started running against Hillary Clinton for the presidency.

ACOSTA: That he liked Hillary Clinton, basically?

AVENATTI: Yes, basically, that he liked her and he thought very highly of her.

It was only until he figured out that it was to his political advantage that he turned 180 degrees and spoke otherwise.

ACOSTA: And what does Stormy Daniels' interactions with President Trump as a private citizen tell her about his fitness for office? Does she get into that in the book?

AVENATTI: She does touch on that, and she touches on the fact, for instance, that Donald Trump was conspiring with her or suggesting to her that he would assist her in cheating on the show "The Apprentice" and would devise a strategy whereby she could stay on the show longer than she otherwise would stay on the show.

And, I mean, I think that says a lot about the lack of integrity of Donald Trump as a man. I mean, this is an individual that lies on a consistent basis, has no qualms about lying to the American people about any number of far more important things than "The Apprentice."

ACOSTA: And, as you know, Michael, Michael Cohen, the president's former personal attorney, has already pleaded guilty to the payment to Stormy Daniels. He also implicated President Trump in that plea deal.

Do you think more charges could be coming against the Trump Organization or anyone else? What can you tell us about that?

AVENATTI: I do anticipate that there's going to be additional charges.

I don't think that prosecutors are any -- are close to being done yet relating to bringing additional charges. And at some point, Michael Cohen owes my client an apology for calling her a liar and for sending out people like David Schwartz and other lawyers to come on your network and other networks and to call my client a liar.

And I think that this book firmly establishes that my client is telling the truth.

ACOSTA: She wants to set the record straight? That's where she's doing this book?

AVENATTI: Absolutely. And if people have facts, if Michael Cohen, Donald Trump or Sarah Sanders or others have facts that undercut the facts and the evidence in this book, well, let them come forward right now and let's have an educated discussion about it.

ACOSTA: OK, Michael Avenatti, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Just ahead --

AVENATTI: Thank you.

ACOSTA: -- will Brett Kavanaugh's accuser appear before the Senate on Monday, and what happens to the confirmation process if she doesn't?

Also, we'll go live to North Carolina and a city bracing for more flooding on top of paralyzing destruction days after Florence hit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:27] ACOSTA: And we're back with the breaking news. The president continuing to stand by his Supreme Court nominee as Brett Kavanaugh faces allegations of sexual assault when he was in high school.

Tonight, it's not clear if his abuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will testify at a planned Senate hearing on Monday.

Let's bring in our analysts. And Jeffrey Toobin, I'll turn to you first.

The president was again uncharacteristically toned down during those comments he made earlier today, but one thing that stood out to me was he did say he felt sorry for Brett Kavanaugh. He could not use the name Christine Blasey Ford. And again, it seemed a situation where the president stands with the accused and not the accuser. It just seems to be a pattern. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's a pattern starting with

himself, who is a multiply-accused -- accused abuser of women. And you know, he said he felt sorry for Brett Kavanaugh here, having to deal with the accusation. And of course, no sympathy for the alleged victim.

But, you know, the fact remains that, if she doesn't show up on Monday, this confirmation is going through. And even though the Republicans have set up a structure that is very much rigged to help Brett Kavanaugh, with no other witnesses, no other investigation, it's really a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for her. And we'll see if she takes it.

ACOSTA: And Rebecca Berg, I mean, it is -- Jeffrey does make a good point. Because if you're Christine Blasey Ford, and what they're telling you is all you can have is a one-on-one sort of trial with Brett Kavanaugh, that may not sound as enticing as having supporting witnesses, as perhaps subpoenaing Mark Judge, the friend who was allegedly there at the time for this incident and so on.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

ACOSTA: I suppose, perhaps, at this point it is not too surprising that we have not heard yet from Ford as to whether she's going to do this.

BERG: Right. I mean, this is a huge decision for any person to have to make, Jim, but especially when you consider that this woman is a private citizen who didn't necessarily want or invite all of this attention. She had what she felt was a very important piece of information that she wanted to share with the senators as they considered their decision, and now faces this choice of should she put herself in the national spotlight.

And already, you know, we've heard reports that she has had to leave her home, that she's staying elsewhere, that her kids are staying elsewhere, she's off of social media. The scrutiny and the pressure on someone who is, again, a private citizen, it's extremely intense. And you could see why she would take her time making this decision.

ACOSTA: And David Swerdlick, I mean she does potentially, I mean, would be setting the stage to become sort of the next Anita Hill, who was the accuser during the Clarence Thomas saga. And she -- Anita Hill did resurface to write something in "The New York Times," saying that the Senate Judiciary Committee still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing; suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more -- excuse me -- recent #MeToo movement.

Anita Hill has a point here in that, you know, it seems that we have this archaic system for dealing with these sort of accusations in a Supreme Court nomination process.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think Professor Hill is write that the Senate is ill-equipped, in some ways, to do this. I think she's also right that this could be a sort of circus atmosphere that is not, as Rebecca was saying, particularly fair or charitable to a private citizen, who by all accounts, didn't want their name to be out there.

Now that Dr. Ford's name is out there, and now that she's told her story to my "Washington Post" colleagues, now that this is heading toward this sort of, in theory, conclusion on Monday, I think it doesn't serve her interests not to tell her story. Because the court of public opinion will judge her harshly if she now doesn't speak up and tell her story, even though she faces incredible consequences about this. I don't see how it's in her interests to stay silent.

ACOSTA: And there's a lot of pressure on Dr. Ford at this point, isn't there, Sam Vinograd?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There is, but this is an unfair set of choices for Dr. Ford. She either has to show up and testify on Monday, which is a very short amount of time to prepare for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, or she won't show up and will know that her accuser will be appointed to the Supreme Court.

So this is really a rigged system, as Anita Hill points out in her op- ed.

[18:40:00] And some things have changed since 1991. There is a heightened focus on sexual assault. The courts have had 17 more years to look at sexual assault cases and sexual harassment.

But what hasn't change is that the accuser is still being put on trial on Monday, if this goes forward, with no witnesses, and when the outcome almost seems predetermined.

So while some conditions have changed since 1991, the forecast for anybody that comes forward with a sexual assault claim in this kind of process remains exactly the same.

ACOSTA: And Jeffrey --

TOOBIN: And let --

ACOSTA: Go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Let's just focus on the absurdity of this process. There is a third person who is alleged to have been in the room, Mark Judge. In any rational fact-finding process, he would be called to testify.

His lawyer sends a letter today saying, "Oh, he'd prefer not to testify." Well, that's very interesting, but there's something called a subpoena that, in a normal investigative procedure, he would be subpoenaed. The Republicans would say, "Well, it's very nice you don't want to testify, but we have subpoena power. Get in here and testify on Monday."

But the Republicans in the Senate, they don't want him to testify. They don't want more evidence. They don't want a real investigation. So they're not going to -- they're not going to subpoena him. It's just indicative of what a kangaroo court this is.

ACOSTA: And David, you want to --

SWERDLICK: I just want to follow up on something that Sam said. I agree that it's not fair to Dr. Ford that the onus is being put on her here, but I don't think the onus is on her, Jim, to determine the fate of Judge Kavanaugh's nomination. I simply think the onus is on her, now that she is out there in the public, to tell the truth as she sees it or as she knows it.

The -- we're here, broadly speaking, with Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, because there was an election in 2016; because President Trump is the president; because there's a Republican- controlled Congress; because in terms of the way this process has been handled, senators on both sides of the aisle have allowed this to become a circus-like atmosphere.

ACOSTA: And guys, I want to play this piece of video that came in this afternoon. It shows Brett Kavanaugh back in 2015 talking about what happens at Georgetown Prep staying at Georgetown Prep. Not a very helpful sound bite for him, but let's play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Fortunately, we had -- 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: What do you make of that, Rebecca?

BERG: Well, obviously, in that context, Jim, he was making a joke; and you could see where that would be funny in a normal context. But now, of course, we're hearing that soundbite in a very different context. It makes him sound flippant. It -- you know, you could apply it to the current allegations against him. It sounds much more nefarious, but of course, he didn't mean it like that.

TOOBIN: And how about -- and how about Mark Judge? Mark Judge has written not one but two books about being a blackout alcoholic at Georgetown Prep at the time when, according to Ms. Blasey, the assault took place by two drunken students. I mean, it doesn't prove anything in and of itself, but it is circumstantial evidence that, if you were doing an actual serious investigation, you would figure into the process.

ACOSTA: And Samantha Vinograd, I mean, what would -- what do you think the president's team is doing right now as Christine Blasey Ford is trying to decide, you know, what they should do? I mean, obviously, what we saw from the president earlier today was, I mean, the president has been holding back somewhat. We've been talking about that over the last 24 hours.

VINOGRAD: For now.

ACOSTA: Exactly, for now. But he did sound like he was getting more aggressive in his posture, blaming this on Dianne Feinstein, saying that the Democrats, all they want to do is obstruct and resist.

It sounds as if the White House, after being pushed back on their heels yesterday, is sort of getting their act together, getting their talking points together, and all the while, Brett Kavanaugh is going over to the White House and prepping for this hearing on Monday.

VINOGRA3D: Exactly. I think the president's team is probably praying that the president doesn't tweet anything malicious against the accuser because, remember, when he's backed into a corner, typically, his strategy is to try to malign the victim and try to malign the accuser, to say that they're lying.

And in his comments today, he was restrained for now, and that's probably because he -- or maybe because he has a daughter; he has a wife. That hasn't stopped him before. So I think, Jim, it's probably just a matter of time before he says something about the character of Dr. Ford. And I think that it's just a waiting game.

ACOSTA: OK. All right. We're waiting to find out what happens with -- with Dr. Ford's decision in all this. Thank you very much, all of you.

And just ahead, the storm has passed but not the danger. We'll go live to North Carolina, where rivers are bursting and floodwaters are rising.

And Kim Jong-un is parading his warmer relations with South Korea and his higher profile in the world. We'll get insights from CNN's Will Ripley, who's just back from Pyongyang.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:49:36] ACOSTA: We're following breaking news on the Hurricane Florence disaster tonight. Officials are warning that thousands of residents of the Carolinas are in danger as rivers continue to rise, more water pouring into areas where flooding is already catastrophic. Thirty-two deaths are being blamed on Florence and ahead of FEMA's warning that the next 48 hours are extremely critical.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is in Lumberton, North Carolina.

Polo, tell us about the impact of the flooding. What are you seeing there?

[18:50:02] POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, I think what we're seeing at least in this part of the Carolinas is attention really shifting from rescues to more protecting infrastructures that is in the path of devastating floodwaters, including here in Lumberton, North Carolina.

Let me explain. The water that you see here, all of this murky water, this is the retention pond. This is all water that continues to drain from the western and southern parts of the cities, parts that were devastated by Hurricane Matthew about two years ago, it is being pumped at over 100,000 gallons of water a minute into the swift-moving Lumber River, over the levee that protected this city only days ago after all that water poured into the region here.

Here's the idea. What they are hoping to do is basically move all the floodwaters in the city away from their water treatment plant. That's been a main concern because two years ago after Hurricane Matthews flood, that facility was flooded and disabled for up to 30 days. Residents here had to have water trucked into the area. So, what they did this time, they basically created a makeshift berm, a dam if you will, and it seems that the water has stabilized around the facility, according to our sources here on the ground.

So, now, they're awaiting for tomorrow to see if that water level will rise, but that's basically what we're seeing not just here in Lumberton, but throughout the Northeast. We're seeing towns that are especially trying to protect their water from the floodwater, Jim.

ACOSTA: And, Polo, how long are these conditions expected to last?

SANDOVAL: We certainly expect other neighboring rivers to continue to crest. For example, this is the Lumber River, I'm told that this crested at about 25 feet yesterday and dropped only three inches. That's obviously going to be an issue because it has closed down some of the main parts around town, for example, the bridge. And those will be part of the lasting effects.

I-95, a very important of the -- a very important interstate that cuts through the state, that has been shut down here in Lumberton for the last couple of days. I'm told it will not reopen until this river drops back to 21 feet. Currently, it's still flowing at 25. It could be perhaps days before the waters reach that level again.

ACOSTA: All right. Polo Sandoval, we hope things start moving in the right direction where you are. Thanks very much.

And just ahead, Kim Jong-un puts on a show of warmth to welcome South Korea's leader to Pyongyang. But what's really going on behind the hugs and the smiles?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:01] BLITZER: Tonight, Kim Jong-un is hosting the leader of South Korea for their third summit this year and putting on quite a show in the process. At the same time the state media has been blaming the Trump administration for stalled talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

CNN's Will Ripley is back in Hong Kong after his 19th reporting assignment in North Korea.

Will, tell us about the summit and what's Kim's strategy behind all this.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I mean, the images coming out of Pyongyang are extraordinary. We tried to stay in there, but all foreign media with the exception of South Korean press was kicked out for reasons that we really don't know.

But to see Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, the leader of North Korea, standing out of the sunroof of an armored, you know, Black Mercedes that Kim Jong-un always rolls around town in, that was just stunning. Not to mention the fact that Pyongyang mobilized 100,000 people to turn out and cheer for the South Korean president and their leader, of course. That's an estimate from South Korea's Blue House. You know, there's no other place in the world people can be told show up and they'll be here.

But now, they have to get down to business today. There are some really important things that they're going to be talking about. This is their third summit this year. Moon has basically assumed the role of mediator between North Korea and the U.S. He's the one who's trying to talk to both sides to bridge the huge divide on denuclearization that exists.

I was in Pyongyang chatting with government officials a few days ago and they told me something that was really striking and it underscores the big ideological difference. The North Koreans think that a peace treaty should have happened decades ago. They think it needs to happen now, and they don't think that they should give up anything in exchange, whereas the United States feels that the peace treaty, along with the easing of economic sanctions, is one of the biggest concessions that they have to offer, and must only happen after North Korea has given up most of its nuclear weapon. The North Koreans say they're not giving up a single nuke until they get that peace treaty.

So, how do you get those two sides closely together, that is one big challenge facing President Moon in and he's going to have to tee up what is expected to be Trump/Kim round two somewhere, sometime later this year. Because the North Koreans by blasting conservative lawmakers in the United States but protecting President Trump from criticism, this is continuing that messaging and that belief inside North Korea, according to my sources, that they feel President Trump is the only person who they can sit down with at the table and actually gets the denuclearization talks back on track and get a deal, by the way, that would be more favorable to Pyongyang than what they felt Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered that very disappointing trip back in early July.

So, we'll see what happens today -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes, it seems as though Kim Jong-un is trying to manipulate the message here. I mean, this is all carefully choreographed, isn't that right?

RIPLEY: Yes, absolutely, because they're trying to show peace, they're trying to show harmony with Seoul and yet they're blasting Washington. And this brings up that whole issue, is North Korea trying to drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea, and is it working?

There's a lot of concern inside the administration that it just might be looking at pictures like this.

ACOSTA: All right. Will Ripley, thank you very much for that.

I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.