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Brett Kavanaugh's Accuser Won't Testify Unless FBI Investigates Her Claims; Trump Rips Jeff Sessions, Saying He Doesn't Have an Attorney General; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 19, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- your perspective on all of this. Thanks so much.

All right. Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.


President Trump has just weighed in for the first time on the latest complication delay in the drive to confirm his second Supreme Court pick. But he also made news on Jeff Sessions, Paul Manafort, Kim Jong-un, as well.

You'll hear it all coming up, but first I want you to hear the president's thoughts on the insistence by Christine Blasey Ford that the FBI investigate her claims that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her before she appears before senators.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would let the senators take their course, let the senators do it. They're doing a very good job. They've given tremendous amounts of time. They have already postponed a major hearing. And really, they're hurting somebody's life very badly.

And it's very unfair, I think, to -- as you know Justice Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough. And his family, I think it's a very unfair thing what is going on. So we'll see. But I do think this. They've given it a lot of time. They will continue to give it a lot of time. And really, it's up to the Senate.


HARLOW: OK. Let's go to the White House. Boris Sanchez is there. A whole lot of news made in those five minutes -- Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy and Jim. President Trump walking a fine line there, not really questioning the credibility of Christine Blasey Ford or the allegations that she's made against Judge Brett Kavanaugh but still strongly defending his choice to be the replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. The president effectively saying that he believes that senators should

be in charge of carrying out this investigation, not the FBI. In fact he says the FBI has already investigated Judge Kavanaugh six times. He says they know Kavanaugh well.

Of course, there is precedent for an FBI investigation in allegations similar to these. You'll recall back in 1991, the FBI investigated allegations made against then candidate to the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, and things that he allegedly did to Anita Hill. Beyond that, though, the president actually said of Christine Blasey Ford, quote, "If she shows makes a credible showing, that would be interesting."

The White House again walking that fine line. As you saw in the president's tweet this morning, not really going after Kavanaugh's accuser but suggesting that this is something out of the Democrats' playbook.

I did want to point something out, though, yesterday in that letter from Christine Blasey Ford's attorneys to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley. Her attorney wrote about the fact that her client had been harassed viciously numerous times, that she had to move out of her home and she was impersonated online, that she was hacked, I actually asked the White House press team yesterday how they felt about that kind of harassment in light of the fact that President Trump and other figures within the administration like Kellyanne Conway have asked for patience and about an evenhanded tone when discussing Ford's allegations. I did not get an answer -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: It's an important question. I'm glad you asked it.


HARLOW: Thanks a lot. Great reporting, Boris, at the White House.

So it now appears that if the Senate Judiciary Committee does go through with this hearing that it's planned for Monday after postponing the vote that was planned for tomorrow in Judge Kavanaugh, the woman whose allegations prompted those moves won't be there.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill.

So is the hearing, at least from what you're hearing from Republicans, are they intending to go forward with the meeting whether or not Ford shows up?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That certainly is the big question up here on Capitol Hill, Jim, but as of now the chairman of that committee says yes, indeed, that invitation is still on the table for Dr. Ford to come up here and testify, and indicating that as of now the hearing still is on.

And certainly, in the Republicans' response to that letter from her attorney last night, they are making it clear that this is her opportunity. This is her chance. Monday is the day for her to come up here. And they are being very clear in dismissing her calls for the FBI to investigate first.

We heard from many Republicans in the time since most notably just a few minutes ago from Senator Lindsey Graham. He says in a statement, he says, her call for an investigation essentially he believes isn't about getting to the bottom of truth here, but more about delaying. He says, quote, "Required in the FBI investigation of a 36-year-old allegation without specific references, time or location. Before Professor Ford will appear before the Judiciary Committee is not about finding the truth but delaying the process until after a midterm election. It is imperative the Judiciary Committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and the committee vote be taken as soon as possible."

And I think it's very clear that this is the line, Jim and Poppy, that we will hear from many Republicans up here that if she doesn't show up, we still must push forward through a vote. And most notably we heard that from many key voices, voices like Senator Flake, voices like Bob Corker, voices like Susan Collins, a potential key swing Republican vote who told me yesterday that she would be puzzled if she didn't show up.

[10:05:10] HARLOW: And I -- Sunlen, I'm so glad you mentioned it because I do think it's notable the voices that are saying this. That it's Corker.


HARLOW: That it's Flake saying we need to move forward. These are --


HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: They were the first ones to say when it's still a question mark among Republican.

HARLOW: Let's hear it, right?

SCIUTTO: Let's hear it. And in fact they insisted to Republican leadership that she be heard.

HARLOW: True. True.


HARLOW: Sunlen, thanks for the reporting on the Hill.

Let's talk about this. Our political commentators David Urban, Amanda Carpenter, are with us, and Symone Sanders. Thank you all. Important day, so much news. Hopefully you heard the president there making a lot of news in those five minutes.

Amanda, let me go to you first on the big picture here. And that is trying to get at what the priority is for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans specifically, right? Who make the decisions here. Grassley decides when this thing happens. When the vote happens. Is it to get to the bottom of it, learn the truth regardless of how much time that will take, or is it to get a vote on the president's nominee for the Supreme Court before the October term begins?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think this is about finding resolution on this matter. And yes, the October deadline is far more important than the November deadline. And I think that is a better argument to make than the midterms because the Supreme Court has a full docket. And at some level it's unfair to make the country wait on all those cases to follow up on allegations that just don't have a lot of lead.

HARLOW: Amanda, Merrick Garland --

CARPENTER: Everyone wants to hear her --


HARLOW: Eight justices for 13 months.

CARPENTER: Yes. Yes. That's fine because Republicans wanted to get their judge.

HARLOW: We've lived it.

CARPENTER: And this is still about getting a judge on the court. I don't disagree with you.


CARPENTER: And they're the ones who are elected. Listen, I'm making the political point here. This is about politics. That's what you asked me to speak about. They want to get a judge on the bench. A lot of people in this country want to get that judge on the bench. And so I don't think it's hypocritical. I think it's pretty consistent. You may not like it but that is what the politics are about. Sure.

SANDERS: Poppy --

SCIUTTO: Symone Sanders, is it right to keep to that timeline when you have this question out there and by one measure at least at the FBI's involvement, not fully investigated?

SANDERS: Jim, this is absolutely -- this is about power for the Republican Party. And I think what the Republicans not just on the Senate Judiciary Committee but Republicans in the Senate at large are doing is wrong and so is the Republican president. They are sending a message that sexual assault -- allegations of sexual assault do not matter. They're are sending a message that --


SANDERS: Clearly they're sending a message that they care more --

CARPENTER: We all want to hear the story. Give me some more details. SANDERS: They are sending a message that they care more about putting

a Supreme Court justice on the bench that will do what they want him to do as opposed to seriously investigating and taking a woman's charges seriously. If that is --


SANDERS: Frankly that's the message that they are going --


SCIUTTO: Let her finish her point.

SANDERS: Then I believe that women all across this country come November 6th are going to hear that loud and clear and I think they're going to send their own message because that is what this election will be decided about.

SCIUTTO: David, let me -- let me ask you a question, David Urban.

URBAN: Yes --

SCIUTTO: The president keeps saying and he said just moments ago that the FBI doesn't seem that this is something the FBI does. Just a reminder, Ford has asked that there'd be a nonpartisan investigation into this before she appears before the committee. That's not true. The president can order the FBI to investigate this. President Bush ordered the FBI to investigate an allegation by Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas and that investigation took three days.

Why is the president -- why do other Republicans keep saying this is not the FBI's role?

URBAN: So, Jim, I think what's happening -- Jim and Poppy, I think what's happening here is you're seeing a great deal of skepticism on both sides, distrust at an all-time high.

SCIUTTO: For sure.

URBAN: That -- you know, you remember not so long ago when the Senate Judiciary Committee would come to an agreement on these type of things. I think it's what is rubbing some of these Republicans the wrong way on the committee is that Senator Feinstein had this information in July. She could have kept it confidential. She didn't have to breach anybody's trust instilled in her. She could have raised the issue with the FBI at that time. She could have raised the issue with Judge Kavanaugh at that time.

But according to her staff and sources inside the Democratic caucus, they didn't believe there was enough there there to raise it. And so --


URBAN: So -- hold on, guys. Hold on. Hey, Symone, hold on. You had your chance. So what happens is it appears now that, you know, Professor Ford was outed by some Democratic staffers. She made a decision. She did not want to come forward. Professor Ford did not want to come forward in this case but she was outed by Democratic staffers doing her great disservice, putting her name --

HARLOW: OK. We don't know, David.


HARLOW: Go stick with the facts. We have no idea who leaked it.

URBAN: No, Poppy. We do know that, Poppy.

HARLOW: Name them.

URBAN: Poppy, there is reporting on this.

HARLOW: Name them.

URBAN: Poppy, I will get you -- there is reporting out there maybe on this -- I mean, on this network that she was outed by staffers in an attempt to get this going.

[10:10:06] And so there is a great deal of distrust on both sides. Listen --

HARLOW: That's not our reporting.

URBAN: If the Democrats and Republicans can both agree --

SCIUTTO: Not CNN's reporting, though.

URBAN: Poppy, the Democrats and Republicans can both agree on time limit to have this investigated that might be --


URBAN: Because of the level of distrust.

SCIUTTO: You're saying that --

URBAN: Republicans fear that this is going to be dragged --

SCIUTTO: Add another week to give the FBI an opportunity to do this, you're saying you would be open to that. Would you recommend that Republicans say listen, let's let the FBI have a look because the president can order that to happen?

URBAN: Jim, I think -- listen, Jim, I think that the Republicans are fearful this is going to drag on forever. Democrats are fearful they're not being heard. Professor Ford is getting an opportunity to be heard on Monday whether it's on camera, whether it's --


SANDERS: She's not getting an opportunity --

CARPENTER: You know, what I think --


HARLOW: All right, Amanda. Amanda next. Amanda next.


HARLOW: But I'm going to jump in here.

CARPENTER: This is pretty simply.

HARLOW: We got time. We got time. Amanda next, but I want you to answer this question as well.


HARLOW: Because I'm really interested on your take on it. One would think that it would be in the interest of all parties, in the interest of Judge Kavanaugh to have a full investigation. He has been adamant with Republican senators on the phone like Senator Kennedy who we just had on saying I wasn't there. I didn't do this.

Would it not be best for him to have a full investigation? And if that is the case, do you believe that Judge Kavanaugh himself should come forward and say look, give this the time it needs, let an independent body investigate this, I want this cleared up? I don't want any cloud over my head if I'm appointed to the Supreme Court. Should he do that? Will he do that?

CARPENTER: Here's what I think. Here's what I think people should do. I think the Judiciary Committee say listen, we're going to extend this for at least another week. We want all information to come forward. The FBI should talk to people who were placed at that party. Those are -- that's the information we have.

Talk to Mark Judge. There is another person that was named, according to reporting by CNN, who had gone to the Judiciary Committee already.


CARPENTER: And saying I have no knowledge of this.


HARLOW: Right.

CARPENTER: So of course, they should follow up on that because at this point we have three categorical denials by people the accuser placed at the party. So follow up on that. Absolutely. But if it doesn't go anywhere past that, move on to a vote.


URBAN: I agree.

SCIUTTO: Listen, we're making progress here. And David, so there is some progress there. You're saying listen, leave open the possibility of an investigation. Set some sort of time limit. I mean, this is the Senate. They can make an agreement.

URBAN: Jim, listen --


SCIUTTO: Symone, Symone --

URBAN: There are not that many people. There are not that many people to talk to.

SCIUTTO: I know.


SCIUTTO: I know. Let's get Symone --


SCIUTTO: Let's get Symone's view to see if -- Symone, do you believe that that would be a reasonable way forward?

SANDERS: Yes. Having an investigation and then a hearing is an absolute reasonable way forward. That is what Democrats are calling for, frankly that's what Dr. Ford is calling for. And so --

SCIUTTO: But with a time limit. That's the difference.


SANDERS: Look, I know.

SCIUTTO: Should Democrats agree to some sort of timeline?

SANDERS: I do not think that is necessary. This is an arbitrary Congress --

CARPENTER: Of course it is. There is a full docket in October.

SANDERS: There is --

URBAN: Of course you don't.

SANDERS: Amanda -- but Amanda, Merrick Garland did not get a hearing. Republicans let --

CARPENTER: Yes, because Republicans did not want to have hearings on Obama's justice.

SANDERS: Frankly Republicans do not get --

CARPENTER: That happened. You can't use that to block this judge while the Republicans are still in control.

(CROSSTALK) SANDERS: I'm being gas lit. I'm being gas lit. Oh my god, I'm being gas lit as though Republicans did not leave the Supreme Court seat open for --

CARPENTER: You just don't have the vote.

SANDERS: -- 422 days.

CARPENTER: I can read the map. That's not gas lighting.


URBAN: So guys, you could see --

SANDERS: The fact of the matter is --

URBAN: So, Jim and Poppy, you could see.

SANDERS: I just want to get my point out. I just want to get my point out. Please. Between Amanda and David Urban.

SCIUTTO: Please go ahead.

SANDERS: This is what I would like to say. For anyone to assert that Dr. Ford should just show up on Monday when she had been treated so callously and so carelessly by Republicans not just on the committee but in Congress is disingenuous. For Judge Kavanaugh who sat in this hearing earlier and noted that he was a champion of women, that had character witnesses after character witness come up and say how he supports women, how he's encouraged them in their careers.

A champion of women, an ally of women is someone that stands with them in difficult times. It's not just when it's comfortable. And so if you are truly an ally, if you're truly a champion, give Dr. Ford her due.


URBAN: So, Symone --

CARPENTER: Everyone is --

HARLOW: BY the way, hold on, David, one second.

URBAN: So Symone --

HARLOW: Did you notice, Amanda Carpenter -- did you notice?

URBAN: Wait, wait, Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: David, one second. First of all, I know you disagree on some things but she just gave you a plug for your book, by the way, Amanda Carpenter with the gas lighting comment there.

David, over to you, final thought on what does it mean for your party, with women, what does it mean for the Republican Party with women if this is not fully investigated?

URBAN: Listen, Jim and Poppy, look, you know, Amanda and I offer a fairly reasonable solution to this. Symone goes back to the Obama administration and Merrick Garland, and doesn't answer your question about whether that's a reasonable solution. I think it's reasonable. I think most Americans view it as reasonable. But Symone and the Democratic Party doesn't it. So that's where you have it. That's why you're going to continue --


SCIUTTO: It's not a solution --

URBAN: I think listen --

SCIUTTO: -- that's been (INAUDIBLE) Democrats because the president is saying no FBI investigation has --


[10:15:03] URBAN: Jim, you asked -- you asked Symone if that was reasonable or not and she didn't answer. So --

SANDERS: I told you I did not --


SANDERS: Because there is -- no.


SANDERS: To be clear, stop putting words in my mouth. I'm staying right here. What I said was this is not reasonable because this is an arbitrary timeline. I think this investigation has to be given its due.


SANDERS: So whether it takes three days or two weeks or three things, which I don't think it will take three weeks, give it its time. Why are we rushing this? It's only been 46, maybe 47 days. This is too important to ram through.

CARPENTER: Easy to solve.

SCIUTTO: Listen, we've made some progress there.

URBAN: I think Professor Ford --

SCIUTTO: We made some progress there on it.

URBAN: Professor Ford makes --

SCIUTTO: Quick final point, David.

HARLOW: I think everyone agrees on it. URBAN: Professor Ford needs to be heard.

SCIUTTO: Right. Fair enough.

URBAN: It is -- listen, it is not -- it is distant memory in this town 1991 and the optics of all the all-male, white old senators sitting in the dais, grilling unfairly Professor Hill perhaps, right, bad optics, bad for the party, bad for Professor Hill, bad for women, it's a bad idea. Give Professor Ford her due. Let her be heard.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, guys, thank you. It's a tough issue. I think we made some progress. Let's keep up the conversation, Symone, Amanda, David.

HARLOW: I'm so glad you're all here. Thank you guys very, very much.

All right. So the president again today going after Jeff Sessions, but a whole new level against his attorney general saying --

SCIUTTO: I have no attorney general, he said.

HARLOW: Wow. Wow. We're going to talk about that ahead.


[10:20:49] SCIUTTO: President Trump ripping into his Attorney General Jeff Sessions once again in what could be, though, his most striking criticism yet. The president in an interview with the "Hill," saying --

HARLOW: Yes. "I have no attorney general. It's very sad."

Let's go to Jessica Schneider, our justice reporter, for more.

It's not new that he is battling his attorney general. By the way, who's been sticking up for himself a little bit more lately. So we'll see what Jeff Sessions said. But this is a whole new level. I mean, he basically says you're not doing your job of being, you know, the top law enforcement official in this country.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. You know, we see these repeated attacks from the president. It's possible he is starting to ramp them up again. What's interesting is the renewed attacks, they're coming after what's been almost a month of quiet from the president against his seemingly favorite target, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But in a new interview now President Trump is at it again. And in fact just moments ago he again took aim at Jeff Sessions.

So, first, I'll go to what the president told reporters at "The Hill" in what they described as a free wielding interview where he broadly attacked the attorney general on several fronts. So here's what he said to "The Hill." He said, "I'm so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general and I didn't see it. And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him. But he was giving very confusing answers, answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him."

So the president there attacking Jeff Sessions when it came to his nomination which was more than a year and a half ago. You know, in that nomination hearing Jeff Sessions did fail to mention the two meetings he had with the former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. So again the president was at it again attacking his attorney general just moments ago. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: I'm disappointed in the attorney general for numerous reasons. But we have an attorney general. I'm disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons. And you understand that.


SCHNEIDER: So, you know, Jim and Poppy, the president saying he's been disappointed with the attorney general when it comes to the Russia investigation. The fact that he recused himself. What's interesting about this "Hill" interview is that the president is now seeming to expand this. He said that he's also not happy with what Jeff Sessions has done when it comes to the border and immigration.

So really a wide ranging criticism of Jeff Sessions, something that we do see flare up. And here it is flaring up yet again -- guys.

HARLOW: OK. Jessica, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thanks, Jessica.

HARLOW: Meantime, the Russia probe documents President Trump wants declassified immediately might not come immediately. And they might not come completely. CNN is learning that intel officials are looking to redact sensitive materials.

SCIUTTO: So Sara Murray, in Washington with the story, it seems the intelligence community is backing up what many Democratic lawmakers have said here which is that there is sensitive information in these documents.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There is sensitive information. And we do know that because, you know, some portions of these documents have already been released with redactions. And then the White House came out, the president came out and said look, I want to see more of this. I want the FISA application for Carter Page. I want to see more of that unredacted. I want to see text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as well as James Comey, as it relates to the Russia investigation.

The president also called for declassified and unredacted versions of documents related to Bruce Ohr who's a Justice Department official who met with Christopher Steele who assembled the dossier, to be released as well. But the important thing to realize about this process is that it doesn't just happen, you know, that the president declares it and then with a drop of a hat all of these documents are released to the public completely unredacted.

So what's happening now is the Justice Department and the FBI working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to present either new versions of some of the documents that have already been released with fewer redactions or redacted versions of some of these documents we haven't seen.

So that information would then go over to the White House counsel and the president and they can take a look at that and say OK. This is sufficient, this is what we want to release publically or the president could say this doesn't go far enough. I want to see versions of this with even more made public.

[10:25:02] I want to see even fewer redactions and then I would kind of go back and the agencies would continue to haggle with the White House on this. So the important thing to remember is that it doesn't happen immediately, but the president has called for the release of these documents and the public is likely to see them in one form or another, although at this point it does seem likely that they will have some redactions still.

SCIUTTO: Sara Murray there, we're going to keep watching that.

HARLOW: Thanks, Sara.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much for covering that.

Coming up next, President Trump headed to North Carolina.

HARLOW: He's about to tour the devastation from the flooding. He's in the air right now, he's landing at any moment. We'll take you there live.