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Hill TV: Trump Admits He Hasn't Read Russia Probe Docs He Declassified; Trump Visits Storm-Damaged Carolinas as Flood Danger Persists; North & South Korea Sign Peace Agreement at Summit; Interview With California Congressman John Garamendi; Trump and GOP Refuse to Order FBI Investigation Into Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Allegations. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 19, 2018 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Officials are warnings thousands of evacuees to stay away from their homes. Tonight, the nightmare of flooding, death and destruction refuses to end.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ACOSTA: Breaking news tonight: Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee appear to move forward with Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, even though his accuser is refusing to testify on their timetable.

In a just-released letter, the committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, is rejecting Democrats calls to delay of hearing set for Monday. Democrats and Christine Blasey Ford are calling for the FBI to investigate her allegation that she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers.

But President Trump and his Senate allies say that's not going to happen.

I will get Democratic reaction from Congressman John Garamendi. And our correspondents and analysts, they're all also standing by.

But first to CNN's congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, tell us more about this letter from Senator Grassley. It seems pretty big.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. The question of delay, that is certainly not going to happen, according to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, and also the question of an FBI investigation.

Grassley rejecting that out of hand, saying the process is too far along, that should have happened before allegations ever became public. Instead, it's up to the committee. He said this: "We have no power to commandeer an executive branch agency into conducting our due diligence. The job of assessing and investigating a nominee's qualifications in order to decide whether to consent to the nomination is ours and ours alone."

And along those lines, Jim, what we have been told by committee staff is basically they have been conducting -- at least the Republicans -- an investigation of sorts on their own. They have been making calls to alleged witnesses. They have been reaching out to people.

But the big question right now is, will they get any cooperation, not just from Christine Blasey Ford, but also from Democrats?

In the meantime, Jim, the big question to go along with that is where other Republicans stand, most notably Republicans who haven't committed whether or not they want to vote. And right now we're hearing that those Republicans, they want to see a hearing. Take a listen to what Susan Collins said earlier today.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I think it's not fair to Judge Kavanaugh for not to come forward and testify.


MATTINGLY: The subtext of that, Jim, and something we have heard from several Republicans, is if there is no hearing on Monday, if Christine Blasey Ford does not show up on Monday, it is very likely that Republicans are just going to move forward and have a vote on the nomination.

Democrats, they have stood firm and they have aligned themselves with Professor Ford, saying there does need to be an FBI investigation, saying the hearing should be delayed.

Take a listen to what Senator Doug Jones, a red state Democrat from Alabama who still hasn't made up his mind, had to say earlier.


SEN. DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA: I think Dr. Ford is doing the appropriate thing. Dr. Ford is being reasonable. I think she needs to have the respect of the committee to let this play out and to do an investigation.

That is not unreasonable to say. It's unreasonable for the committee to force her hand without doing the appropriate investigation, in my opinion. And I think that they jumped the gun on this. And I would like to see an investigation done. The FBI is equipped to do it.


MATTINGLY: So, Jim, basically we are at an impasse at this moment. Republicans have laid out multiple options for Professor Ford to come testify, either in public, in private, in closed session with staff.

They even offered to send Judiciary Committee staffers out to California to interview her there. But everyone is waiting for a response. And at this point, we still don't know when one is coming and what that response is going to be, Jim.

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

Now to President Trump. He has been urging Brett Kavanaugh's accuser to testify, while making it clear that his Supreme Court nominee is his primary concern.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins us.

Jeff, we heard from the president earlier today. He says he wants to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, but he also showed a lot of empathy for Brett Kavanaugh as well.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jim, he did. He said that directly. He said, I want to hear what she has to say. I would really like to hear what she has to say.

But in the next breath, he said that he feels horrible for the tough situation, the unfair process, in his words, that he believes Judge Kavanaugh has been going through.

Now, all this is happening, this uncertainty, as Judge Kavanaugh himself spending a third straight day preparing for the possibility of a hearing that may or may not happen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.

ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump not only standing behind Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tonight, but subtly questioning the credibility of the woman accusing him of sexual assault.

TRUMP: Really, they're hurting somebody's life very badly. And it's very unfair, I think, to -- as you know, judge Kavanaugh has been very, very tough.

ZELENY: The president expressing confidence Kavanaugh's confirmation, repeatedly referring to the federal judge as justice.


TRUMP: Justice Kavanaugh. Justice Kavanaugh.

ZELENY: But the president also saying today he's eager to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed and groping her during a party more than three decades ago in high school, allegations Kavanaugh categorically denies.

TRUMP: If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting, and we will have to make a decision.

ZELENY: The president dismissing calls for the FBI to investigate, as Democrats and Ford have requested.

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.

ZELENY: Yet that's exactly what happened in 1991, when Anita Hill made sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas. The White House order the FBI to investigate and send its findings to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, today, the president expressing more outrage at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, expanding his criticism beyond his recusal in the Russia investigation.

TRUMP: I'm disappointed in the journey general for numerous reasons.

ZELENY: The president was even blunt during an interview with "The Hill," saying: "I don't have an attorney general. It's very sad."

It's the latest accusation of disloyalty from the president, even though the role of attorney general is to lead the Justice Department, not serve as the president's personal lawyer.

"He wanted to be attorney general. And I didn't see it. But he came very strongly," the president said. "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. That was a rough time for him."

All this as the president visited North and South Carolina today, where at least 36 people have died in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

TRUMP: To all those impacted by this terrible storm, our entire American family is with you and ready to help. And you will recover.

ZELENY: The president toward a flood-ravaged neighborhood in New Bern, North Carolina, handing out lunches and hugs. The president also asked about something close to his heart.

TRUMP: How is Lake Norman, that area? How's that doing? I love that area. Just -- I can't tell you why. But I love that area.

ZELENY: The Trump National Golf Club located on the shores of Lake Norman near Charlotte that largely escaped the storm's wrath.


ZELENY: Jim, the president returning here to the White House just a few moments ago. He did not stop and answer questions as he walked into the residence, after spending several hours on the ground there in North and South Carolina.

Of course, he comes back to new questions about the confirmation battle. He has made his views of Judge Kavanaugh pretty specific and clear. He said he feels badly for him, this unfair process, but he was asked earlier today if he feels anything for the accuser, the California professor here who's also been injected into this drama.

This is what he said: "I would have to see what she has to say. I have given her a lot of time."

So not a lot of empathy right there, Jim. And make no mistake, politics central to this as well. The president saying he believes one of the key reasons he was elected was because of who he appoints to the Supreme Court. So, look for him to continue to press that argument. But, again, the big question, will there or won't there be a hearing come Monday?

And what happens after that when the actual vote comes on the full Senate, Jim?

ACOSTA: That's right. All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

Joining me now, Representative John Garamendi. He's a Democrat and a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you.

ACOSTA: And the Senate Judiciary Committee -- I guess you probably just saw this breaking news in the last hour -- making it clear -- Chuck Grassley is -- that there's not going to be any delaying of this hearing and no investigation into this accusation from Christine Blasey Ford.

In the last hour, I spoke to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who said, if there's no investigation or no other witnesses, it's a sham hearing. And she says that Dr. Ford is being bullied in all of this.

Do you agree?

GARAMENDI: Absolutely.

Just think about this. Women, for decades, have faced this situation. They have always, when they come forward with an accusation of assault or rape, they become the victim in the hearing. And we have got to put a stop to that.

Women across this nation should be outraged at what these white men senators are doing to this woman. This woman needs a fair hearing, as every woman does who brings forth to charge such as Professor Ford is bringing forth. Get the facts out there.

The president is just plain disingenuous when he says, this isn't what the FBI does.

No, Mr. President, this is precisely what the FBI does. It does with every one of your nominations. It did it with this particular -- with Judge Kavanaugh earlier. And new accusations come forward, the FBI does this kind of work all of the time.

ACOSTA: OK, Congressman, I want to bring in Phil Mattingly, if you could just stand by for just one moment.


Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, has some new information that's coming in right now.

Phil, what can you tell us?

MATTINGLY: Yes, Jim, "The Washington Post" is now reporting that there has been a response from the lawyer of Christine Blasey Ford about the back and forth between Judiciary Committee Republicans and her client.

And the statement says this: "The rush to a hearing is unnecessary and contrary to the committee discovering the truth."

Included in the statement is that the hearing should have more than just the two witnesses that are currently scheduled.

This is obviously something we have been waiting for, some type of response up to this point. Republicans have been very clear they only plan to have two public witnesses. They have been reaching out to other potential witnesses on the staff level.

But the attorney, while not saying whether or not Christine Blasey Ford will come to testify on Monday, saying again the responses that have been going back and forth, at least from her perspective, from her client's perspective, Jim, are unsatisfactory.

ACOSTA: OK, Phil Mattingly, sounds like we're heading towards an impasse in all of this. Thank you very much.

I will go back to Congressman Garamendi.


ACOSTA: Congressmen, it sounds like both sides are digging in here. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, saying, no, there won't be a delay, and Dr. Ford's legal team saying that is unfair, and it doesn't sound like they're game for that.

What do you have to say all that?

GARAMENDI: Well, several things.

First of all, every women across America who has had any kind of sexual assault knows precisely what is going on here. The man in this case the men, the senators, the male senators who control that committee are playing the game as old as an assault. And that is, the woman is the accused, the women is at fault.

That has to stop. That plain has to stop. And it stops with an investigation. This apparent -- this event apparently took place at a party. Who -- where was that party? What time was the party? Who were the other people that were there? What were the other witnesses that could come forth?

Apparently, there's one gentleman that was said to be involved that said, well, I didn't know anything about it. But he refuses to testify under oath? Well, now, there's an interesting situation. Why would he refused to testify under oath? Because perhaps he wasn't telling the truth in the first place?

And he did write a book about party central at this particular high school. So there's a lot that needs to be understood here.

And, in addition to that, we're dealing with a gentleman -- or a man -- let's just say it's debatable whether he's a gentleman -- that could be on the Supreme Court for the next 30 years. And there are a whole series of issues that his positions raise serious questions about what impact that will have on generations to come.

So let's get down to the facts of, what actually took place, do the investigation, take your time. We have 30 years out ahead from this man, if he is to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. We can take a few more days, we can take a few more weeks. There's not going to be a change in the makeup of the Senate until next January.

So there's plenty of time out ahead to get to the bottom of this. And for every woman in America, they're facing, in their own personal way, a circumstance that they know all about. Every accusation that they would make makes them the victim, not the person that perpetrated the crime.

ACOSTA: And, Congressman, what is it going to be like on Capitol Hill next week if the Senate Judiciary Committee says, you know what, we're not delaying this hearing, and they start voting on this nominee to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court without hearing from Christine Blasey Ford, if her voice is not heard in all this?

GARAMENDI: Well, I would expect to see the women representatives in the House of Representatives rise up in anger and disgust at what the Senate Republican men are doing, ramming through this hearing without an adequate opportunity for Professor Ford to gather together the witnesses that she may need, that the public needs, that the Senate needs, and the investigation that can be done and must be done by the FBI.

I would expect the female members of the House of Representatives, joined in by members such as myself, to march over to the Senate and to protest loudly and clearly on behalf, not only of Professor Ford, but on behalf of the women of America who have faced sexual assault and who have been denied the opportunity for their case to be fairly adjudicated.

ACOSTA: And President Trump, you probably heard what he had to say earlier today. He says, this is a very tough thing for Judge Kavanaugh and his family, and that it's very hard for him to imagine that anything happened.

The president almost rendering his own verdict in all of this. What's your reaction to that?

GARAMENDI: Is this the man that has been accused by 16 women of sexual assault and who was publicly on national, international television suggesting that that's precisely what he does to women?


Is this the guy that says there's no need for an investigation?

This is the president of the United States. This is the president of the United States, who has a long history of facing this precise issue. And he cannot and should not duck his responsibility for a full and fair investigation of the allegations that have been made by Professor Ford.

ACOSTA: And what is your message to Christine Blasey Ford?

I mean, she may be following this. Her legal team may be following all of this. What is your message to Professor Ford?

GARAMENDI: She should know that she has the support of men and women in the House of Representatives, as well as in the Senate. We have heard from many of those senators.

She should also know that she has become an inspiration for women across this nation who have faced sexual assault, who have feared to come forward. This is a defining moment, a defining moment in the MeToo movement. This is the defining moment in how Americans are going to treat women who have put forth -- who have come forward and alleged sexual assault.


ACOSTA: But do you think she should meet that moment -- even if she can't get it on the timetable that she wants, even if she can't have supporting witnesses behind her, should she go into that hearing room by herself and face this publicly?

GARAMENDI: Side by side with the person that she accused, without any additional support, without the facts coming forward, without the FBI investigation?

I don't know how to advise her. But I do know this. This is Wednesday, Wednesday evening. We have Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and we have Monday. And I would expect the women of America to begin to rise up in anger, and to make it very clear to the senators that this is personal to them. This is personal to the women who know other women that have been assaulted, that have been frightened to go forward because they know that this lady, Ms. Ford, is about to face precisely what they fear in every courtroom, that their accusation is turned on them, and they become the accused.

Now, we can't have that in America any longer. It's gone on too long. And it's time for us to recognize that these are legitimate claims. And, in this case, there is time and there is enough -- enough opportunity for the facts to come forward, for the investigation to be made.

And we will see what comes of that. There clearly -- if this was a party -- and, apparently, it was -- apparently, there were two people in the -- three people in the room. And there were others that may know about what was going on. And we do know from Mr. Judge that it was party central at this school during that period of time.

And we also know from Judge Kavanaugh's own words, his own words in 2005, when he was speaking to the alumni of the school, he said that the word is what happens at this school stays at the school.

And then he went on to smirk. OK, what happened at that school cannot stay at that school. The accusation has come forward. It is serious. In today's climate, it would be a crime. At the age that it took place, it is a serious matter. And it needs to be fully investigated.

And what the -- what Professor Ford decides to do, I cannot say, but I can say that, for the men and women of the House of Representatives, we must rise up in disgust and anger and make certain that our voice is clear.

Get the facts out. Give this woman the benefit of the doubt. Don't treat her as so many women have been treated time after time in courtroom after courtroom. When they come forward with an accusation of sexual assault, they have become the victim in the courtroom. It's got to stop.


And, Congressman John Garamendi with some strong words there, thank you very much for all of that. We appreciate it.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

ACOSTA: And just ahead: As Democrats accuse the president of abusing his power, Mr. Trump is defending his decision to declassify Russia probe documents. Tonight, he's admitting he doesn't know firsthand exactly what secrets he may be exposing.

And as the special counsel may be closing in on Trump ally Roger Stone, why is a former Stone associate refusing to talk to Congress?



ACOSTA: And we're back with the breaking news.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is refusing to delay a Monday hearing on the allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Chuck Grassley also set a deadline -- and we're just learning this now -- of this Friday for Ford's legal team to say whether or not she's willing to speak to the committee.

So that is closing in very quickly.

Let's bring in our analysts to talk about this.

Rebecca Berg, it says right here on page two of this letter: "The Senate Judiciary Committee has extended invitations to Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh to testify on Monday. They have until this Friday at 10:00 a.m. to let us know whether they are coming."

So, essentially, they have until Friday at 10:00 a.m., what, less than 48 hours from now, to make this very, very critical decision.



So not unreasonable, if you consider this sort of preparation that would need to go into a committee hearing of this magnitude, assuming it would be public. Of course, she also has the option to speak privately with members of the committee or with staff. Those options, of course, are still on the table as well.

But Democrats are going to continue, you would imagine, to make the case that this is rushing the process, that there should be an investigation prior to any sort of hearing. That's the Democratic argument we have been hearing. And I'm sure with this new Friday deadline, they will continue to send that message to Republicans and to the public.

ACOSTA: Jackie, these senators, they are ramping up the pressure, aren't they?

I mean, by saying you have until Friday at 10:00 a.m. to let us know what you're doing, that's pressure.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. But they do control the calendar. That is one of the benefits of being in the Senate majority.

And, look, they have seen that -- throughout the day, you have seen the members that have been the most adamant about her coming to testify to the Senate say please come testify. And you have seen Susan Collins, you seen Jeff Flake, people who did have a problem with her just being kind of glossed over, you have seen them kind of take a step back and say, we're really trying to get her in here, and giving Senator Grassley the benefit of the doubt.

And that for the Senate Judiciary Republicans is a green light to hit the gas a little bit.

ACOSTA: Joey Jackson, I mean, if Christine Blasey Ford is your client, I mean, they -- the scenario that there are putting forward is not beneficial one to her.

They're not allowing her to bring in witnesses. They're putting a deadline in place of less than 48 hours from now to make up her mind. And then she has basically three days after that to get everything together to be ready for undoubtedly a very personal, but also, I mean, very pressure-filled moment.

What would you advise to Christine Blasey Ford if she were your client at this point?


This is a sham, and it's an embarrassment. It's called a hearing. Well, to me, it should not be couched in those terms. A hearing implies that people are heard. It implies due process. It implies that people have an opportunity to air what occurs.

And so I'm not here as a partisan, but as an analyst. But if you look at what the Republicans are doing, it's troubling. And here's why. First, we talk about alternative facts. Then we talk about the truth not being the truth and facts not being facts. Now we're talking about totally ignoring the facts.

And so, under these circumstances, how is it unreasonable to request an investigation? How is it unreasonable, if I have a point of view as it relates to something that happened to me, to bring in proof so that I could establish that it did?

And so now we're moving into an instance where you're just going to hear Judge Kavanaugh, I guess, deny what occurred, without any opportunity for her to state her piece or for there to be an underlying exchange of information beforehand?

It's not a hearing. It's just a sham. And it is, as you have referred to it, Jim, a show trial. And, therefore, she should stay home until they get serious about wanting to know exactly what occurred.

If you don't, then I'm not going to participate.

ACOSTA: And, David Swerdlick, we may be moving from a show trial to perhaps to the next big moment in the MeToo movement, if they have this hearing on Monday without Dr. Ford participating.

Her attorney, Lisa Banks, just gave a statement to "The Washington Post," saying: "The rush to a hearing is unnecessary and contrary to the committee discovering the truth."

It sounds like both sides have dug in here.


I agree with Joey that this does not seem like it's being set up as a genuine inquiry of fact. It seems like it's being done as kind of a show.

If I were, though, Dr. Ford's attorney, I would advise her, look, the responsibility of what happens with the United States Supreme Court and the responsibility of what happens in the U.S. Senate is not on you. I would advise her, though, that she has to make a decision, balancing her privacy, her safety and how she wants her story told. If she doesn't come forward, I would understand that. But then someone else will be telling her story for her, not her, in the Senate.

ACOSTA: But, Jackie Kucinich, Kirsten Gillibrand, senator from New York, who's been on the forefront on a lot of these sexual assault issues in the Senate for some time, she was on SIT ROOM in the last hour, and she accused the Republicans of bullying Dr. Ford.

Let's listen to what she said.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I believe her. And I think the women of America should be paying attention right now to how the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are treating a woman who wants to testify to make sure that someone who gets a lifetime appointment has the character necessary to be a Supreme Court justice.


ACOSTA: Jackie, could the Republicans who control that committee -- I understand they want to shut down this time frame as quickly as possible and move on and vote to approve Judge Kavanaugh -- but could they be stumbling into a MeToo moment?

KUCINICH: So, there was risk -- risk even if -- if she does testify, because you would have a woman being in front of the members of the Republican Judiciary Committee, who are all male.

And how they questioned her, I mean, there really was a risk there. And Republican aides were very nervous about this.

[18:30:15] So either way, they are putting themselves in a very uncomfortable position. And they did -- I'm not giving them, like, a cookie here, but they did move the hearing from Thursday to Monday. Initially, that vote was supposed to be, the confirmation vote was supposed to be tomorrow.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: But they didn't -- they said no to an FBI investigation. They're saying no to other witnesses. And they're compressing this timetable, and they're putting pressure on her to make a decision.


ACOSTA: It sounds like they're shutting down this process, Rebecca.

BERG: Right. Well, Republicans are trying to thread the needle here, Jim. On the one hand, they don't want to seem heartless. They want to be compassionate or at least seem compassionate, seem like they are open to hearing what Dr. Ford has to say.

But on the other hand, they clearly have made up their minds. For the most part, with a few exceptions, most Republicans have decided that they support Brett Kavanaugh and his confirmation. And so this is kind of a box that they need to check on the way to that.

ACOSTA: OK. Everybody stand by.

President Trump once again is slamming his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Is he laying the groundwork to fire Sessions?

Also ahead, the president gets a firsthand look at the flood disaster unfolding in the Carolinas.


[18:36:05] ACOSTA: The breaking news tonight, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is setting a Friday morning deadline for Brett Kavanaugh's accuser to say whether or not she will testify about her allegation that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.

Senator Chuck Grassley now refusing to delay a hearing on the allegations set for Monday. We're covering that and much more with our analysts.

And folks, breaking news here, we also have a longer statement from Lisa Banks, the lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford. If we have it, we can put it up on screen. It's a fairly lengthy statement.

It says, "Dr. Ford was reluctantly thrust into the public spotlight only two days ago. She is currently unable to go home and is receiving ongoing threats to her and her family's safety. Fairness and respect for her situation dictate that she should have time to deal with this. She continues to believe that a full nonpartisan investigation of this matter is needed, and she is willing to cooperate with the committee.

"However, this committee's stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good-faith investigation. There are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in my any proceeding. The rush to a hearing is unnecessary and contrary to the committee discovering the truth."

Joey Jackson, one person that they don't want to hear from is Mark Judge, who you know, as we know, Christine Blasey Ford is saying was there in the room at the time. And the Judiciary Committee Republicans are saying they won't even have that person come in and testify and say what happened, or talk to the FBI and be forced to talk with the FBI under oath.

What do you make of all that, and what do you think of this reaction coming from Lisa Banks? It sounds like she's following your advice and saying, "No thanks."

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: First of all, I think it's a shame. And I think it's really just a despicable way in which to behave. And if you really are in search for the truth, would you not get witnesses who could talk to the issue of what that truth might be?

As it relates to what Ms. Banks has said, I agree with her wholeheartedly. In the event that you're acting in good faith, in the event that you want to find out and uncover what the reality of the matter is, you have a proceeding, which lends itself to just that. You don't call in two witnesses.

And to your point, Jim, or your question as to Mr. Judge, who allegedly was in the room at the time many years ago when it occurred, why would you not want to hear from that person, whether they denied it or not? It's a different matter when you're under oath and you're asked probative questions as to what you saw, when you saw it, what you didn't see, what you recall and what you don't recollect.

And so the fact that they don't want to hear from that person means they don't want to hear the truth. And that is a shame.

ACOSTA: And David Swerdlick, I mean, it sounds like -- I mean, if you listen to this lengthy statement, Dr. Ford is not only facing this big decision as to whether to appear on Monday. She's receiving ongoing threats. She can't go home. She's being put through a tremendous ordeal.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Dr. Ford and her family are in a difficult situation. It's disgusting that people are threatening her life and her safety and that of her family.

Everything that her attorney is saying there in that statement you read is reasonable. Everything Joey is saying is reasonable.

We are where we are. Democrats, as Jackie said before the break, do not control anything here. The Democrats, in my view, are in the process of completely botching this. And if Dr. Ford and her legal team think that they're going to, in the next couple of days, follow the Democrats into somehow playing a better hand than the Republicans, I submit to you, Jim, that they are making a mistake by trying to follow the Democrats down this -- down this road. The Democrats are not in control.

ACOSTA: To that question, Jackie, could the Republicans be botching this themselves or do you think because they hold all the cards, because they control the committee process, they can walk away from Monday without having Christine Blasey Ford testify and be just fine and just sail right on past this on?

[18:40:10] KUCINICH: I think it depends on who you ask, honestly.

Yes, there's always a chance that they're going to look really bad in this situation. But as things stand, as David said, this is sort of the process that we're dealing with at this point. And you know, there is an argument to be made that they could actually -- it actually could be worse for them if she does show up because of optics.

So again, we're going to have to see how this pans out as to how bad or how -- how not bad they look at the end of the day.

BERG: And Jim, Senate Republicans and Mitch McConnell in particular are so results-oriented when it comes to Supreme Court confirmations. You'll remember, of course, during the presidential election, Mitch McConnell made the very controversial decision not to even entertain the nomination of Merrick Garland. Of course, there was a great deal of uproar from Democrats about that, but it's because, ultimately, Republicans care about getting their nominee confirmed.

ACOSTA: Right. Yes.

BERG: And so I don't think they care, really, how they look.


BERG: They want Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

ACOSTA: We'll have to end it there. But so many women are watching this moment right now across the country. And it just strikes me as one of those moments where Washington is just getting it wrong once again.

And Congress is getting it wrong once again. So many women, so many young women watching this moment; just feels like they're getting it wrong. But thanks very much, everybody.

Just ahead, is President Trump tipping his hand, revealing his real motive for declassifying documents in the Russia investigation? And what does a new peace agreement between North and South Korea mean for the United States? Kim Jong-un is making new promises, but with strings attached.


[18:46:18] ACOSTA: We're following breaking news on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation for the Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman saying he won't delay a Monday hearing even though Kavanaugh's accuser says she's not ready to testify.

Also tonight, President Trump admits in a new interview that he hasn't read any of the classified Russia probe documents that he ordered to be released, but that's not stopping him from claiming that he -- that this unprecedented move will be beneficiary to the country and to his presidency.

Let's bring in CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.

Sara, tell us more about this interview.

The president was open about his intentions are in all of this.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and he did this interview with Hill TV, and as you pointed out, he said, you know, I haven't really looked at all these documents, but, of course, Jim, he has heard plenty of these documents about other conservatives on Capitol Hill who has been itching for him to declassify this information. And that's exactly what the president says he wants done. He wants a number of documents related to the FISA application for Carter Page, text messages between Peter Strzok and Page as well as James Comey released. And I want to read to you what the president said when he was asked

about his long-running feud with the FBI and what some of the motivation might be. He said, I hope to be able to put this up as one of crowning achievements that I was able to expose something that is truly a cancer in our country. The president clearly wants to be able to show that the Russia investigation was all a political hoax and that there are bad actors working in the FBI.

We'll see what those documents actually show, though, Jim.

ACOSTA: And, Sara, the Justice Department, the FBI, they're working with the director of national intelligence to prepare new declassified versions of all of this. How heavily redacted will the documents be? We're showing some on screen that were highly redacted.

MURRAY: Right. So, that's what we're waiting to see. I mean, it's going to be a back and forth that's between the Department of Justice, the FBI, the office of the director of national intelligence about, you know, taking some of the documents that are already out there. Maybe putting up less redacted versions of them and taking some of the documents we haven't seen and presenting them to the White House with redactions.

And essentially, that starts a conversation, OK, is this good enough? The president can say, release this version, or he could say, no, no, I want to see even more of that and he could start this haggling over and over again. But, you know, the president is the final word on this, Jim.

ACOSTA: And you're also getting some reporting about a former Roger Stone associate declining to voluntarily be in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Some of these lines always go back to Roger Stone. What can you tell us?

MURRAY: That's right. So, the person that the Senate Intelligence Committee politely invited for a voluntary interview is Randy Credico. He's a New York activist, he's a comedian, he's a radio host. Today, his lawyer very politely declined the Senate Intelligence Committee's request for an interview as well as for documents.

Now, Randy Credico recently testified before the grand jury in the Mueller investigation. He's met with Mueller's team, but when it comes to Capitol Hill, he's rebuffed all the requests for interviews. The House Intelligence Committee wanted to interview him awhile back. And he basically said that's not going to happen. He said I would have to plead the Fifth if I come in font of you.

So, it doesn't seem like he's ready us to go in front of Senate Intel either, Jim.

ACOSTA: OK. That battle not over yet.

Sara Murray, thank you very much.

President Trump is back at the White House this hour after visiting hurricane-damaged areas in the Carolinas. Mr. Trump stressing the ongoing danger from flooding even though the storm has passed.

Let's go to CNN's Nick Watt who is in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Nick, thousands of evacuees are being warned not to go back to their homes. This has to be very difficult for those residents down there. They want to go home.


You know, evacuation orders, Jim, have been lifted but people are being warned it is still dangerous, and I can attest that it is still dangerous.

[18:50:02] Hundreds of roads are closed, still in North Carolina, it is very difficult to get around. We have tried. A journey that should have taken two hours yesterday took us about seven.

And, you know, the governor up here has said we are a state that is hurting and here is why, you know, 13 rivers still on major flood, hundreds of roads closed, as I said. Nearly 8,000 people still in shelters, 100,000 customers still without power.

And, you know, and this is a region that relies heavily on agriculture, and, of course, a storm like this is devastating, not just the wind but the rain. We've got crops destroyed and fields, we've got 3,000 chickens dead, we've got 5,000 hogs dead.

You know, it's going take this state a while to recover from this and as President Trump said today as well to the people of South Carolina, you know what, the worst may still be to come for you because all this rain that's fallen up here, it's in rivers and it's heading south. His last trip today was Conway, South Carolina, and, you know, he was warned there by officials that they think the worst may be to come on Friday when the river there peaks and some of these rivers may not peak until, in fact, next week and I also got a text from somebody down in North Myrtle Beach, one of the officials down there who said we are slowly becoming an island.

So, days and days after this storm hit, Jim, the effects are still being felt. The sun may have been shining today in Wilmington, but the outlook is still pretty gloomy.

ACOSTA: And the president was criticized for how he handled Puerto Rico after the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. I suppose we did not see some of the same visuals today, paper towels being thrown and that sort of thing.

WATT: We did not. We saw him handing out boxes of food to people who were kind of surprised to see the president. We saw him offering to get involved in minor insurance claims. He played it pretty well today, Jim.

ACOSTA: OK, and you saw the pictures there a moment ago of him in Puerto Rico and then the pictures today.

Nick Watt, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Good talking to you.

And, just ahead, is Kim Jong-un making the U.S. an offer it will have to refuse?


[18:56:37] ACOSTA: Tonight, President Trump is calling a new peace agreement between North and South Korea very exciting, among other things, Kim Jong-un is offering to destroy his country's primary nuclear complex but there's a big catch. He says the U.S. must also take steps to denuclearize.

CNN's Will Ripley who's done extensive reporting in North Korea joins us live from Hong Kong.

Will, how significant is this Korean peace deal? How real is it?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it's highly significant. He put out a statement congratulating the North Korea, calling on a meeting at UNGA next week with North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong-ho and saying that Kim Jong-un has promised to give up all of his nuclear weapons by January 2021, the end of President Trump's first term.

But what is the United States going to have to give in return? That is still an open question tonight.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Political romance may still be in the honeymoon stage but North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in seem ready to take things to the next level.

During a summit filled with smiling photo ops in Pyongyang, both leaders touted a new era of peace and cooperation, joint economic, transportation, and health care projects, even a bid to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics. The North and South also signed a detailed agreement to end all military hostility. North Korea promised to shut down a key missile test site.

And its Yongbyon nuclear facility, even saying international inspectors will be allowed to watch. But a vaguely worded caveat says, the U.S. must take corresponding measures.

DUYEON KIM, SENIOR FELLOW, KOREAN PENINSULA FUTURE FORUM: We can assume that to be a declaration ending the Korean war or other steps.

RIPLEY: Steps that could include a long-time North Korean demand that U.S. troops scale down and eventually pull out of the Korean peninsula, a traditional deal breaker for Washington.

KIM: It does not move the ball forward at all. We're still in the same place.

RIPLEY: President Donald Trump trying to project momentum in his own dealings with Pyongyang. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had very good news

from North Korea, South Korea.

RIPLEY: Crediting some of the progress on his personal relationship with Kim Jong-un. Plans are in the works for a possible second summit with the North Korean leader.

TRUMP: We're talking. It's very calm. He's calm. I'm calm.

RIPLEY: Trump is citing North Korea's lack of recent missile tests as a positive sign, despite a months-long stalemate in denuclearization talks. North Korean state media this week placing all the blame on U.S. demands, once again calling them gangster-like.

President Moon will try to salvage the situation, acting as mediator when he visits the U.S. next week. Kim Jong-un says he'll soon be the first North Korean leader ever to visit Seoul, a chance for more photo ops and more promises of a bright unified future.

What happens next could clarify if Washington and Seoul are still on the same page when it comes to Pyongyang or if the U.S. is beginning to look like a third wheel.


RIPLEY: Kim Jong-un, a reminder, still has all of the nuclear weapons today that he had yesterday and he'll likely have them for many weeks to come because even while he's saying he'll destroy some of these testing sites, the weapons themselves and their launchers are still sitting in that country -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Very, very interesting.

Will Ripley, thanks for watching that. We know you'll be watching more of that.

I'm Jim Acosta, thanks very much for watching us.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.