Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump and GOP Refuse to Order FBI Investigation Into Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Allegations; Interview With Bethenny Frankel. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired September 19, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Christine Blasey Ford now must decide whether she will speak to Senate Judiciary Committee on the timeline Republicans are demanding, even though her request is not being met.

She is calling for an FBI investigation of her allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. A Judiciary Committee aide tells CNN that Chairman Chuck Grassley will offer to send staffers out to California to interview Professor Ford, if that makes her feel more comfortable.

And a key senator who could be a swing vote is now urging Blasey Ford to show up on Monday. Moments ago, Senator Susan Collins said this on a radio station in Maine.

Quoting her: "I think it is not fair for Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify. It seems to me what we should be doing is bringing these two individuals before the committee. If we need additional help from the FBI, then the committee can ask for it."

And President Trump speaking out earlier today also says he hopes Blasey Ford will be there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say. But I want to give it all the time they need. If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Blasey Ford's attorney, though, made it clear the initial request for her to go before this committee in five days, she says, is too soon and not fair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA BANKS, ATTORNEY FOR CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: She will talk with the committee. She is not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday. This just came out 48 hours ago. Asking her to come forward in four or five days and sit before the Judiciary Committee on national TV is not a fair process. And if they care about doing the right thing here and treating this

seriously, as they have said, then they will do the right thing, and they will properly investigate this, and she will work with them in that investigation and also to share her story with the committee, however that happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's go straight to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

And I want to go back to Senator Collins, not on the committee. I misspoke a second ago. Of course, there are four Democrats. But she would be a key vote right in the Senate confirming potentially this judge.

What did you make of what she said on that radio station?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, the best way to look at somebody like Senator Susan Collins is as a bellwether.

I think when you get down to brass tacks, everything that we have seen, very fast-moving, fast-developing story over the last couple of weeks, it's a math equation for Senate Republicans. And that is do they have 50 votes to be able to move forward with or without a hearing?

And Senator Susan Collins is a, if not the key piece of that equation. And you read off what she said, basically making very clear that she believes a hearing needs to happen, saying that it would be unfair to Judge Kavanaugh if one didn't.

What everybody is reading into this, not just reporters watching this, but also Senate Republican aides that I have been talking to, is she's making clear what a lot of other senators who just want to move forward have been making clear on the Republican side of things. If the hearing doesn't happen, this is almost certainly going to move forward. This nomination is going to move forward.

And if Susan Collins is OK with that, then that's what's likely going to occur. Now, you obviously read off what Christine Blasey Ford's attorney said last night, what they have said in the letter, that they want an expanded FBI background investigation into the allegations that occurred.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said earlier today in a letter and in an interview with reporters, that the committee's investigators are who would be doing any investigation. They are not open to that idea right now.

And they also made clear in that letter that there is a deadline for a response whether or not she's going to testify on Monday and that would be Friday at 10:00 a.m.

Brooke, what I would say is this. Republicans right now, while they won't call it an ultimatum, have basically set a firm date for this hearing. It will be Monday. And if she doesn't show up, and either the hearing doesn't happen or it does and she's not there, and Republicans are prepared to move on.

I will say, for as fast-moving is this has been, Brooke, everyone's pretty frozen right now. They're waiting to see what Christine Blasey Ford's decision is, what her next move is. That will likely dictate how things go from here.

But I can tell you just one final thought. Republicans right now, if she does not come and testify, they're not really hesitating. They are fully planning to move forward, at least based on what I have heard so far.

BALDWIN: They have offered a public testimony, private testimony.

Again, we have a number of days. Anything could change.

Phil Mattingly, I know you're on it. Thank you so much up on Capitol Hill.

As far as the president is concerned, we know he's now in South Carolina. He was earlier in North Carolina touring these flood- ravaged regions in our country.

But, earlier, the president downplayed the need for an FBI investigation, as Christine Blasey Ford for would want.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, it would seem that the FBI really doesn't do that. They have investigated -- they have investigated about six times before, and it seems that they don't do that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

[15:05:08]

TRUMP: Well, I would let the senators take their course. Let the senators do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That was president.

As for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary, Senator Dianne Feinstein, top Democrat, who knew about Blasey Ford's accusations back in July, but respected their wishes and keeping her out of this and keeping it confidential, Senator Feinstein says this -- quote -- "The FBI routinely investigates allegations like Dr. Ford's. They did it with Anita Hill's allegations 27 years ago. And they did it this year with allegations against Rob Porter. The FBI needs to investigate, and the Senate needs to wait until that's done."

Let's go to Chris Swecker, former FBI assistant director for the Criminal Investigative Division.

Chris, welcome back. Nice to see you.

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: It is unclear what Professor Ford is asking for, a background probe or a criminal probe. Can you talk -- talk to me about the difference?

SWECKER: Yes, there's a big difference.

The FBI has no independent jurisdiction to open up a stand-alone investigation of rape allegations or assault allegations that may have taken place 36 years ago. That's a local crime. Unless it involves a federal official or a federal land or it has some federal nexus, there's just no jurisdiction to do it.

What they can do is reopen the background investigation, which is a broad investigation, to round out facts to help a decision-making authority hire somebody or not hire somebody or bring somebody on into a presidential position or a judgeship position, something like that.

That could happen.

BALDWIN: So, on the rounding out of facts, how would you even go about investigating something like this? Because clearly she remembers what she says specifically happened to her, but she doesn't remember where it happened.

She doesn't remember when it happened. How do you investigate that with so few details available?

SWECKER: There's not much there. It's strictly interviews, I would say, because there just can't be any forensic evidence, unless -- I would be shocked if they brought a garment forward that might have DNA or something like that.

I don't think that's going to happen. It's going to be strictly interviews of the alleged victim...

BALDWIN: Of who?

SWECKER: ... and the alleged perpetrator. It would be interviews of anyone else who might have been at the party or any other -- maybe that she confided in contemporaneous with the event, her therapist, who I understand may have taken some information about the event sometime later.

But it's all fairly thin. None of this would hold up in court.

BALDWIN: And we have heard from the president. We have heard from Chairman Grassley and other Republicans essentially saying, not necessary as far as this outside investigation is concerned. They go back to the fact that Kavanaugh over the course of his career has endured six different background checks.

Can you tell me what would be in them? SWECKER: Well, these background checks, they're called SPIN, special

inquires. They're very thorough. They talked to neighbors. They look at everywhere you have ever lived since -- in your adult life. They talk to employers. They do criminal checks. They do broader checks on public information that's out there.

They interview people who have relevant information, associates, social network, people who are part of their so social penumbra, their network. These are the most thorough background checks you can possibly do.

BALDWIN: Chris Swecker, thank you.

And as people continue to draw these parallels between Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Anita hill is voicing her support for Christine Blasey Ford. She says the FBI should absolutely get involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANITA HILL, FORMER CLARENCE THOMAS COLLEAGUE: Absolutely it's the right move. The hearing questions need to have a frame. And the investigation is the best frame for that, a neutral investigation.

My advice is to push the pause button on this hearing, get the information together, bring in the experts, and put together a hearing that is fair, that is impartial, that is not biased by politics or by myth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The committee who heard Hill's testimony and ultimately voted to move forward with Thomas' nomination looks like this.

And that committee that will decide the next step for Judge Brett Kavanaugh looks like this, just a few more female faces.

CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic is here with more.

And, Joan, you tell me, what's changed in 27 years?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, look at that cast. It is so different.

First of all, we have so many more members on the committee, 14 back in 1991 vs. 21 now. But here's what's really crucial for people, zero women back then in 1991, four women now, including a woman who actually was elected right after that episode in what was called the year of the woman, Dianne Feinstein, the senior member of the Democrats.

[15:10:15]

We also have Amy Klobuchar, Mazie Hirono, and Kamala Harris are the four women on the committee.

We have got 14 men and 17 men. We just have many more men on the committee just because of the big numbers.

But then here's something else that's crucial, Brooke, the partisan makeup. Back then, there were eight Democrats and six Republicans. Democrats had the upper hand, but this was pretty touchy, and, as you know, 11 Democrats in the end and ended up swinging over with the full Senate vote for Clarence Thomas.

Now it's really tight both in the committee and in the full Senate; 10 Democrats and -- pardon me -- yes, 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans, just like we have in the full Senate, 51 to 49, with Republicans controlling.

There's something else here I'd like to say about the membership. We have got three senators who were there back in 1991, and who are still in the committee, Chairman Chuck Grassley, Senator Leahy, who was then one of the more senior Democrats, now is another senior Democrat on the committee, and Orrin Hatch on the Republican side.

And I just want to remind you, Brooke, of the role that Orrin Hatch played at the time that I think tells you what might be different than vs. now. He was one of the Republican senators who was very scrutinizing of Anita Hill's motives. I don't know if you remember when she talked about some of the graphic pornography that she said that Clarence Thomas had talked to her about.

He challenged her and said, didn't you get that from a book "The Exorcist?"

So all -- many of the senators on the Republican side back then took it upon themselves to be much more challenging than I think we would see this time around if hearings end up being held and if Christine Blasey Ford actually does come here.

Interestingly, on the Democratic side, we have more prosecutorial types, as we saw in the -- even in the first round of hearings with Brett Kavanaugh. Actually, many of the Democrats are former prosecutors, but Kamala Harris, for one, was quite vigilant in her questioning.

And I think we would see that this time around if we do indeed have these hearings, Brooke.

BALDWIN: If we do. We shall see.

Joan Biskupic, thank you so much for the then and the now.

Meantime, Christine Blasey Ford says she was reluctant to speak out because of fears that her life would be completely upended. And you know what? It turns out she was right. She is now on the receiving end of intimidation tactics, death threats, constant media attention.

Let's delve deeper into coming forward, even in this MeToo era.

And President Trump touring the damage left behind from Hurricane Florence right now. We will talk live with reality star Bethenny Frankel, who is using her fame to help flood victims in the Carolinas. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:32]

BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

It has been 27 years since Anita Hill testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but as the country reignites this conversation about sexual harassment and politics, it's hard to miss what hasn't changed.

I want you to listen to Senator Orrin Hatch talking about then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas back in '91, and what he currently has said about Judge Kavanaugh this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Everybody who has worked with Clarence Thomas or knows Clarence Thomas or has a relationship socially with Clarence Thomas knows he's a good man, everybody, except this one woman.

He's a very strong, decent man.

QUESTION: And you believe him?

HATCH: Yes, I sure do.

QUESTION: Do you believe the accuser the at all or no?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Twenty-seven years later, the world has changed, but have lawmakers?

Let's start there.

CNN political commentators Alice Stewart and Maria Cardona is with us. Alice is a Republican strategist. Maria is a Democratic strategist.

Ladies, I have been looking forward to this conversation all day long.

So, Maria, I want to begin with you.

Anita Hill, in her opinion piece, you went back to that phrase, they just don't get it, right, referring to the male senators at the time in dealing with her sexual harassment case. That was '91. This is 2018.

Do you think they get it today?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely not, Brooke. Look, what I thought when you just played that clip of Senator Hatch,

and even earlier today, when Senator John Danforth was on with Jim Acosta, my thought was, wow, male white privilege does not dull with age, does it?

I mean...

BALDWIN: Hold on, on the wow. I was watching as well. Play the clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DANFORTH (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I think -- I mean, what I thought back in the days of Clarence Thomas and what I really think now is that there's -- there's got to be some reasonable end to the torment. And the longer it goes on, the more hurtful it is to a human being.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Doesn't her story deserve to be told, if she wants to tell it, if she wants to talk about what happened?

DANFORTH: Yes, of course, and I think everybody has made that clear, but I'm just saying that, from the standpoint of somebody who's been nominated for the Supreme Court, obviously, you wouldn't be in a position of being nominated unless you had a wonderful reputation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:20:12]

BALDWIN: Again, he was one of the senators on the Senate Judiciary back in '91.

You cited white male privilege.

Alice, I want to hear from you. Same question. Do you think they get it today?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they're coming around to it, because with the MeToo movement, there's no choice. What we're seeing and hearing every day is these tragic stories and allegations and true stories about sexual harassment in the workplace, at home, domestic violence at home.

And we have come to a new era, where these women deserve to be heard. They deserve to be believed. And, fortunately, we're seeing, whether it's in the entertainment industry and now in politics or in other venues or in the workplace, where women are having the courage to come up and speak and have the courage to tell their stories, and the perpetrators, those who have caused this pain, are being held accountable.

And that being said, in this case, people on the Senate Judiciary Committee and across Congress realize that the MeToo movement is alive and well and their voters back in their districts are going to hold them accountable to holding the people responsible accountable. That being said, it's important to note that, yes, Judge Kavanaugh's a

man of tremendous integrity and character, and we have heard countless stories attesting to his character and his nature. At the same time, we have Dr. Ford, who has a story that deserves to be told. She deserves to be heard. And we need to get all of the information out there, so we can get to the right conclusion in order to move forward.

So more than anything, we have opened up the discussion in this MeToo era, and now we need to take the next step to where she is able to provide her full accounting of what happened. She deserves to be heard. And Judge Kavanaugh on deserves due process.

CARDONA: But this is where I think we have hit a snag, Alice, and I'm glad that you're saying that everybody needs to be heard, and you have been saying that from the beginning.

But I don't think that the white males -- mostly males -- in fact, all males on the Republican Judiciary Committee, get it, because Orrin Hatch, not in '91, but today, said or this week said that he thinks that the professor is mixed up.

John Cornyn said that he believes that she is -- perhaps got it wrong and thinks that she's thinking of somebody else.

How denigrating can you get? This is why, frankly, Brooke, this professor has asked for an FBI investigation, because they have already made a judgment about her story. How is she going to get any kind of fair hearing if they don't have facts in front of them that have been laid out by professional investigators.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: She may not get it. By all indications, she may not get it.

When we were listening to the president earlier today, he had said that everyone should be heard. But I guess I just keep going back to, there just seems to be this rush, right?

CARDONA: Yes.

BALDWIN: And, Alice, I'm just wondering, why -- I'm thinking about all these men. I'm thinking, if they had daughters and their daughter said that they were victims of sexual harassment, what would they say to them, well, let's go, let's go, Monday is the day?

Just, Alice, what is the rush?

STEWART: Well, the rush is that the committee has had a timeline to move forward in order to Judge Kavanaugh seated by October.

But in my view, more than anything, the reason we're running up against the clock, to beat a dead horse, is that Senator Feinstein didn't release this two months ago. And if you look at really what's happening here...

CARDONA: So what? STEWART: ... Senator Grassley is the one that's overseeing this.

And if -- the way I look at it, he's been a much more accommodating to Dr. Ford's feelings and wants and needs more so than the Democrats have. He has agreed to go to California and meet with her. She can testify in public or private.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: She can do -- on a phone call. She can do with staff, whatever is in her best interest. That is what Senator Grassley is willing to do.

And, Brooke, you just had just a few moments ago the statement from Senator Collins, a female senator, who says that she needs to come forward, and if she doesn't come forward, that's not fair to Judge Kavanaugh. So we need to hear her story.

And I feel like and I see that Senator Grassley is bending over backwards to make sure we do it at her timeline, at -- at the venue and time of her decision, because that's the only way to be fair to Judge Kavanaugh and her story.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: Except for this is a victim of -- an alleged victim of sexual assault. She just came out publicly 48 hours ago.

She has been living with this trauma for more than 30 years. It is not an easy thing. And, as you know, Brooke, her life has been threatened. She has had to move her family. She has had to hire private security. Her life has been turned upside down.

[15:25:04]

This is not something that somebody does on a whim. And then for somebody else to tell them this is a timeline that you have to now publicly tell your traumatic story to us, I think it's unfair.

Let's stop the clock here for a second. The Republicans waited almost a year and didn't even give Merrick Garland a hearing, and now they're into hurry up, hurry up, we need to do this now?

I'm sorry. That is hypocritical. And it is not credible. And if they don't do this on a less rushed timeline, they will be denigrating and they will be insulting the collective consciousness of millions of American women who have suffered through sexual misconduct and sexual assault.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: It is no wonder it takes women, whether you're on the left, right, center, just a minute to come forward.

CARDONA: Yes.

BALDWIN: Ladies, we do have to leave it there. I do appreciate the conversation.

But the president is speaking. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)

BALDWIN: OK, we just got a little snippet there of the president sitting with a couple of senators from South Carolina, presumably officials. He was in North Carolina.

He's been down there touring areas affected by Hurricane Florence.

And someone else who's down there, in addition to the president, using her star power to help people affected by the storm, Bethenny Frankel. Entrepreneur and philanthropist Bethenny Frankel, she will join me live to explain how she's helping and how you too can lend a hand.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)