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Blasey Ford Has 23 Hours to Decide to Attend Hearing; Kavanaugh Continues Practice for Hearing Against Blasey Ford; Deadly Shooting in Aberdeen, Maryland; South Korean President: Kim Jong-Un Wants Second Trump Summit. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That is essentially what we know. It's a distribution facility for Rite-Aid. Five shot, three dead. About 1,000 people work there. We're told it's secured. Secured by police.

Back to you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Joe, thank you for the reporting. We'll stay all over this.

Thanks for being with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.


"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

A serious ultimatum, and the clock is ticking. Christine Blasey Ford now has just 23 hours to decide, will she sit before the Senate Judiciary Committee and answer questions about her sexual assault accusation against President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court? Republican chairman of the committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, has given her legal team until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow to decide whether she'll appear at the hearing to speak in public about what she has until now only spoken to the "Washington Post" and her member of Congress about. Claims that over 30 years ago, Brett Kavanaugh pinned her down and tried to undress her and assault her when they were both teenagers.

Ford's attorney has called for the FBI to investigate her claims before any hearing takes place. Grassley, though, has dismissed that idea, saying he's offered her the option to testify in public, of course, but also in private.

Ford's attorney, Lisa Banks, has responded to the committee this was. Quote, "The committee's stated plan to move forward with the hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good-faith investigation. The rush to a hearing is unnecessary and contrary to the committee discovering the truth." So what now?

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill following all of the latest.

Manu, where do things stand, and I guess I have to say, at this moment because things keep changing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Things keep changing. One notable thing from the statement from Ford's attorney last night is they did not close the door to testifying on Monday. That is the expectation on Capitol Hill. It's still unclear if she will in fact testify. That's something that appears to still be on the table. So despite this back and forth, despite the concerns and criticism from the Democrats and from Ford's camp, there's still a possibility that that Monday hearing will go forward. Of course, Chuck Grassley setting a deadline by tomorrow morning to hear from Ford or her attorneys about whether or not that hearing will in fact take place.

Now, this comes as Republicans are feeling better about the Kavanaugh nomination. If she were not to testify, in large part because some of the Republican Senators who have been concerned about these allegations want to hear from Ford herself in this testimony. They're not relying on that "Washington Post" report in order to make their own decisions. They want to hear her under oath, including Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, one of the key Republican votes who will determine whether or not Kavanaugh gets this lifetime seat. Yesterday, she raised some significant concerns about the fact that Ford may not testify.

And at the same time, on Capitol Hill today, Kate, you're seeing pictures right now of protesters outside of Bob Corker's office. Another key vote. Outside of Senator Collins' office, right next door to Bob Corker's office. Roughly two dozen anti-Kavanaugh protesters just got arrested, screaming, "Vote no on Kavanaugh" and, "We believe the women." Collins, too, is facing the same protesters. Of course, the Senate is on recess for the rest of the week. The Senators are not there. The aides are fielding this kind of pressure. But it just shows how much pressure there's from folks who do oppose this nomination and scrutiny that the Senators are facing, which will only intensify if Ford does agree to testify on Monday -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. All right, Manu, thank you so much.

So as for Brett Kavanaugh, he's preparing as if this hearing is a go. He's arrived this morning at the White House for a fourth straight day, and CNN learned he's continuing with practice sessions to prepare for possible questioning from lawmakers.

Let's get over to the White House. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there.

Kaitlan, what is the word there this morning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Kate, we saw Judge Kavanaugh arrive here a little over an hour ago. He had a bag and he was with an aide. We saw him walk the to the executive office building, next door to the West Wing, and that's where he's been huddled for four days straight. Speaking with aides on his confirmation team, communications aides here at the White House, and really talking about his dating life, his teenage years, detailing everything he thinks that he could imagine or remember or recall, anything that could possibly relate to this allegation that has come and could possibly disrupt his confirmation.

And that is all ahead of what could be a testimony on Monday. The White House is still planning on going forward with that, planning like he is going to testify, even though, of course, as Manu just said, it's still an open question about whether Christine Blasey Ford is going to show up. However, the White House wants to be prepared in case she changes her mind and she does decide to come forward and testify without an FBI investigation. That's why they have been prepping with Brett Kavanaugh for the last few days here.

But, Kate, something has shifted here in the White House since Sunday when that interview with her was first published. Aides feel like they have really gotten the upper hand again here because they felt like they lost it for a while. They were worried if she came forward and made a pretty convincing argument on Monday that it could sway the votes of people, like Senator Susan Collins. But now, with this call for the FBI investigation beforehand, a lot of people are seeing that as a delay tactic. The aides here in the White House are pouncing on that, trying to get that out there and show that and saying that essentially they have given this woman a chance to come forward and tell her story.

But right now, Kate, the feeling inside the White House is they're pretty confident that Kavanaugh will be confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice.

[11:05:46] BOLDUAN: All right, your eyes on the ground at the White House. Let us know if anything moves around over there.

Joining me to discuss this moment, where they are right now, Ron Brownstein, CNN political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic," Michael Shear, a CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for the "New York Times," and Jackie Kucinich, a CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief at the "Daily Beast."

Jackie, we heard from both Manu and Kaitlan on the state of play. What's your gut right now? Is this hearing going to happen or not?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Kate, I wouldn't venture to guess because there are so many factors here. You know, Professor Ford really has an enormous decision on her hands because this isn't for a lot of people even about her anymore. It's about, you know, the "Me Too" movement. It's about someone standing up for themselves. And frankly, for Republicans, should she appear, the political risk actually gets a lot higher, frankly, because they will -- that will be on television. She will be able to tell her story in her own terms and you will have that visual of, you know, a bunch of male Senators asking a woman about a sexual assault that she said happened. But again, the pressure is coming from both sides because the Democrats are saying that Republicans are rushing this. So you know, we'll have to see. We'll know presumably at 10:00 a.m., by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

BOLDUAN: Michael, she was saying that the White House aides to the president at this moment, they feel like, as she put it, they feel like they have the upper hand on this. The tide has turned somehow. What do you think the consideration is over there at the White House right now?

MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look. I think what the White House has always understood is that even before these revelations, the chance to push Judge Kavanaugh through to be on the Supreme Court was a -- there was a narrow path. You know, the Senate is controlled by Republicans, but there are not that many of them. If only a handful decided to vote against Judge Kavanaugh, it was always possible that if something came up, that caused concern, that the nomination could go off the rails. I think that what has really changed, as Kaitlan said, over the last couple days is you had four Senators, four Republican Senators, Collins, Murkowski, Corker, and Jeff Flake, all of whom had expressed concerns about moving forward without hearing from her. Now that all four have said, look, if she doesn't want to testify, we're ready to move forward, that's what gives the White House a lot more confidence that if they can get past Monday without an appearance by her, that the nomination will at least seem to have clear sailing to the end.

BOLDUAN: But here's the thing. They kind of keep sticking in my craw, Ron, which is hear from her by Monday. This is, and every lawmaker on the committee and even beyond, are going to face questions about this. Should they allow for more time? Why should they be asking for the FBI, why should they be asking for the FBI to investigate? Why does a deadline that is not Congressionally mandated, constitutionally mandated, why does that deadline have to stick?


BOLDUAN: That is the question that I don't understand why they can't answer.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALAYST: Well, especially against the backdrop of the Republican majority holding open a Supreme Court seat for more than a year to deny even a hearing, much less a vote, to President Obama's nominee. I mean, the backdrop of that is just extraordinary. And then the other backdrop of Anita Hill when these allegations emerged against Clarence Thomas in 1991, the White House requested an FBI investigation. It was quick.

And so what we're seeing here, I think, is the sense -- you know, by the way, while all this is happening, you have Dean Heller, the Senator from Nevada, saying this is a hiccup. Lindsey Graham saying, you know, listen to the lady but we're going to move forward.


BOLDUAN: Let me - yes, let me read the -- I have that.


[11:09:56] BOLDUAN: Let me read you what Lindsey Graham told the "Washington Post." "This has been a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh. I'll listen to the lady but we're going to bring this to a close."

I guess then if we're going to be honest, does that tell you what you need to know about where members of the committee really are?


BOLDUAN: Even before this arbitrary deadline?

BROWNSTEIN: They have left her with, you know, an impossible decision. A process that is being short circuiting in every way, which looks more like checking the box that making a legitimate inquiry and trying to understand what happened, on the one hand, versus being silences and saying, you didn't come forward when you could have on the other. In the end, probably most Democrats would prefer, in the end, that she does come forward. But there's no one who could look at this process and say the primary goal is to get to the truth of what happened. It really feels more like making a procedural checkmark to get to where they want it to be anyway, which is confirming this justice. But it's still the stakes are still politically enormous.

BOLDUAN: And thinking of the stakes, Jackie, I found it really interesting that Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat not on the committee, said she's officially a no on Kavanaugh. She said it has nothing to do with these allegations. She's coming out even before even any of this has been resolved with her official position. What position does this put red-state Democrats, you know, some of the folks for everybody even before these allegations came out, does it make it easier or harder on them to decide?

KUCINICH: You know, I think for several of them, a lot depends on whether Professor Ford testifies, frankly. Right now, when these allegations came out, it became easier for them to say no if they wanted to because this was outstanding. Whether or not you think what the Republicans are doing is fair or unfair, should she not appear, it makes it harder for them to vote no if they're in a state where someone, like a Joe Donnelly, where voters are really looking to see how he votes on this Supreme Court pick. There's a story about how it was really influencing the race in Florida as well. So it really -- so much hangs on whether this happens, on Monday or not, politically and for the life of Professor Ford.


BOLDUAN: Michael, really quick, even before Monday, the president is going to Vegas tonight for a campaign rally. He has, it seems, there's been a clear attempt through the White House to have him not take on Christine Blasey Ford correctly so far. We have seen an evolution in that since this came out. But what is likely to happen tonight?

SHEAR: I mean, I think that's one of the big questions. And we don't know. He has been remarkably restrained on this. I mean, yes, he's made some comments orally to reporters. He has not tweeted one kind of incendiary thing throughout this entire period. And I think that is both a testament to the fact that, you know, there's some restraint when it comes to this president. But whether that restraint can hold through two MAGA rallies, one in Vegas and another one the next day, is a real question. And I think that may help to shape what ultimately happens.


BOLDUAN: Ron, I want to get you in but I have to run to breaking news. I'm so sorry.

I really appreciate it. Ron, Michael, Jackie, thank you guys.

We have breaking news right now. We're being told -- seeing some live pictures. I'm seeing them for the first time from WJZ out of Baltimore. This is Aberdeen, Maryland. The sheriff in Hartford County, Maryland, says a mass shooting has left, according to the sheriff, multiple victims. Initial reports right now are indicating that five people have been shot, three of them fatally. This is unfolding in the city of Aberdeen, about 30, 35 miles north of Baltimore. A lot we do not know right now.

But let me get over to Joe Johns who is gathering some of the latest information.

Joe, what are you picking up?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is apparently a distribution support facility for Rite-Aid, which is the drugstore firm that we all know of. As you said, the report that we have initially five shot, three dead. We also know that, according to the sheriff's department in Hartford County, this was initially dispatched around 9:09 eastern time. So we're just about at the two- hour mark as authorities continue working on this.

We're told that the situation has been secured. That can mean a number of things. So it's not clear exactly what that means, but it does appear that they believe at this time they have the situation under control. We know federal authorities, the FBI, are now helping out, assisting any way they can there. And it's been referred to by the governor as a horrific shooting. We don't know what that means.

What we do know is the initial report is five shot, three dead. And waiting for more. A news conference around 11:45 eastern time has been scheduled by the Hartford County sheriff's department.

Kate, back to you.

[11:15:06] BOLDUAN: Joe, thanks very much.

From the pictures we see, it looks like this distribution facility is a very big footprint. So there's a lot more detail that needs to come out, as Joe said.

Joe, we'll get back to you.

Officials say there will be a news conference later this hour. We'll watch all this and bring you updates as soon as we get them. Aberdeen, Maryland, initial reports of five people shot, three people dead at a Rite-Aid distribution facility about 35 miles north of Baltimore. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


[11:19:53] BOLDUAN: Another historic summit with North Korea, but was any history made? The leaders of North and South Korea just wrapped a three-day summit where they signed a series of peace agreements that they claim will end decades of hostility. North Korea said it would permanently destroy a nuclear facility if the U.S. takes certain steps in return. No word on what the steps are.

But South Korean President Moon said Kim Jong-Un for the first time offered specifics on how he plans to denuclearize, that he wants to do it as soon as he can so he can focus on his nation's economy. Kim also reportedly wants to have another summit with President Trump. Moon will be in the U.S. next week and plans to debrief Trump then about Kim's promises.

So where are we?

Joining me right now, CNN global affairs analyst, Max Boot.

It's good to see you, Max.


BOLDUAN: This, to me, reads like progress. Does it look like progress to you?

BOOT: I would say it is more symbolism than substance. We have had promises in the past from North Korea to denuclearize. In fact, they have been promising that since 1994, and they have never delivered. There's really no sign they're going to deliver here. It's mainly about atmospherics. What North Korea basically wants is a relaxation of sanctions. They want to be recognized as a nuclear power. They want legitimacy on the world stage. But they don't want to give up their nuclear weapons. They're kind of stringing along this process to get what they want without having to give up a lot.

BOLDUAN: That's a lot of stringing along if that's the case. I mean, promising to destroy a key missile test site and also the country's primary nuclear facility only if the U.S. responds with reciprocal actions.

BOOT: Yes, right. That's a big if.

BOLDUAN: What is -- no one knows what that is.

BOOT: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: But what is the range of possibility they're thinking?

BOOT: The widespread speculation is what North Korea wants is a peace treaty ending the Korean War, which is very dangerous to grant, because if you end the Korean War, that also takes away the rationale for keeping U.S. forces in South Korea. That potentially takes away the U.S. nuclear umbrella over South Korea. That's been a long-term North Korean objective. A lot of people in the Trump administration say they're not going to give that unless there's significant progress on denuclearization. But the position of Kim Jong-Un and North Korea is, no, we're not going to make any progress on denuclearization until you give us something significant. We're basically at an impasse.

BOLDUAN: Max, it sounds -- it sounds like we're in the same place we always are.

BOOT: Exactly. Exactly.

BOLDUAN: They promise a bunch of things but you need to move first --


BOOT: Exactly. Exactly. There's been very literal actual substance in denuclearization. But what's basically happening is that all of these leaders have a personal stake in pretending there's more substance here.

BOLDUAN: At least keeping the conversation going.

BOOT: Keeping the conversation going. Because both President Moon and President Trump derive political benefits from keeping these negotiations going.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you, Mike Pompeo said, I think it was just yesterday, that denuclearization negotiations are going to be completed by January of 2021.

BOOT: Yes. He is blowing smoke. He is making that up. There's no substance for that. He's just pulling a figure out of thin air. North Korea has not even delivered a full declaration of their nuclear program, which would be the basic prerequisite for going forward --


BOLDUAN: In layman's terms, they haven't even laid out what they have to know exactly what they would destroy.

BOOT: Exactly. You can't eliminate their program unless they declare what their program is, and they won't declare their program.

BOLDUAN: You put no stock in what Pompeo says?

BOOT: I don't know where he gets this. He's smoking something. He's making this up. North Korea has not agreed to denuclearize by 2021. I don't see much chance of that happening.


It's been more than, I think it's been more than three months since Kim Jong-Un and the president met in Singapore. President Moon said yesterday that he hopes that the U.S. and North Korea can have another summit. Do you see -- you have been very critical all along of President Trump's approach with North Korea. Do you see -- do you see a reason for another summit, another meeting of the principals at this point?

BOOT: I really don't, based on what happened in June, it was entirely substance free, and Trump made concessions.

BOLDUAN: Right. But the administration has said they have had the remains of servicemembers returned.

BOOT: Well, that hasn't --


BOLDUAN: That hasn't been verified.


BOLDUAN: There hasn't been a test since, what, November of '17 or something. So?

BOOT: Basically, there's been a change in the North's strategy. They're not giving up their nuclear program but they have stopped the missile tests, stopped the nuclear tests because they basically want to be a low-key nuclear power. They don't want to provoke us, but at the same time, they don't want to give up their program. Now Trump is claiming that is huge progress. We forget that as recently as May and June, he was saying that our objective was complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization on North Korea immediately. And that is clearly not happening.

BOLDUAN: They even came up with an acronym for it.


BOLDUAN: Such a ring.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, Max.

BOOT: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

Coming up, Christine Blasey Ford, she wants the FBI to investigate her allegation against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh. President Trump and top Republicans say that the FBI doesn't do that. So what is the FBI's role here? Can we just get to that first and foremost? That's next.

[11:25:00] Plus, we're following breaking news out of Maryland. Officials in Maryland will be holding a news conference later this hour on reports of a deadly shooting at a Rite-Aid distribution center in the city of Aberdeen. Reports of people dead, reports of five people at least being injured. We're going to bring you the latest. We'll bring that to you live when we get updates.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:02] BOLDUAN: Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser has less than 23 hours now to decide if she wants to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee her story. Christine Blasey Ford, though, is asking that the FBI investigate the allegation -