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Blasey Ford Wants FBI to Investigate Allegations Before She Attends Hearing; The Real Impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico; Soon: Maryland Officials to Hold News Conference on Rite-Aid Distribution Center Shooting; Trump Legal Team: NBC Edited Out Information in Trump Interview over Comey Firing. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:02] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: 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 before she speaks to anyone, a request both President Trump and the committee's Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley have really shot down. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


BOLDUAN: Add to that this statement from Senator Grassley. This, "The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee, nor is it tasked with investigating a matter simply because the committee deems it important. The Constitution assigns a Senate and only the Senate with the task of advising the president on his nominee and consenting to the nomination if the circumstances merit."

So what is the role of the FBI then here and what's likely to happen?

Joining me now is James Gagliano, CNN law enforcement analyst and retired FBI supervisory agent, and Asha Rangappa, a CNN legal and national security analyst and former FBI special agent.

I have a lot of questions today, because there seems to be a lot of people saying different things.

So, James, do you -- is what Chuck Grassley says in the statement correct? Is the FBI's job not to determine credibility, only gather facts, so there's no role for the FBI in this?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So, Kate, you know me, never to sit on a fence. But I'm going to hedge a little bit here. When the FBI is conducting investigations, the agents are not supposed to put opinion into testimonial documents. These interviews, these investigations that would be conducted as part of the background of a judicial nominee would be put on a 302 and bereft of opinion. So an FBI agent trying to make a determination in establishing the voracity of someone they're interviewing, difficult to do. Stick to the facts. Because this is a political process and not a court of law. If it's a political process, then you leave it to the committee to make the assessment.

BOLDUAN: Asha, if you're investigating an allegation now 30 years later, how do you go about doing this in terms of what we're talking about, not a criminal investigation, in terms of a background check? Could this be done by Monday?



RANGAPPA: I think they could. These are skilled investigators. They know how to ask questions, to elicit the kinds of details that matter, that could potentially be collaborated. And I agree with James that the job of the FBI is not to make a credibility assessment, but they do have particular skills that could be helpful here. And there's --

BOLDUAN: Different than members on the committee?

RANGAPPA: Yes. I think what an interview would add to this is, number one, potential corroboration. You have several witnesses here. One, a potential eye witness, others at the party, the therapist, so you can give a bigger scope. The second is privacy. Sexual assault is difficult for particularly the victims to talk about. Usually, in an FBI interview, you would have two agents who would be able to give her time if she needed more time in the middle of this, which a hearing doesn't provide. The last is that there are consequences. Every time you're interviewed by the FBI, what goes in the 302 becomes what you are locked into. It is the equivalent of speaking under oath. Therefore, afterwards, if you change your story, you can be held to account. You can be prosecuted. So everybody would be held to that standard.

I think the danger here if they move forward with this hearing is that details could emerge after the fact. This is not good for the judge. I mean, you know, he needs to be on the court if he's going to be on there with no questions. The court needs to have no questions.

BOLDUAN: And that's why I have started to wonder, if Brett Kavanaugh -- the president doesn't seem inclined to want to ask the FBI to take a look at this. What if Brett Kavanaugh himself publicly stated that he would be very open to the FBI looking back. What impact would that have, do you think?

GAGLIANO: I think it would give the appearance of transparency. You want somebody to say, hey, I have no problem with you investigating my background. We have to understand this, though, too. Going back 35 years hence, back, very difficult. Kate, if you said to me right now, Jimmy, if something happened today and I asked you 35 years from now to investigate that, would that be easier than what these investigators are being asked to do, I would say heck yes. There are digital footprints today. We didn't even have DNA analysis until 1987. There are things today, time stamps, digitally exhausted from cell phones and license plate readers and --

BOLDUAN: Cell phones, yes.

GAGLIANO: -- cell phones that make that earlier. This is daunting. Without a narrow focus scope of the investigation, the agency tasked with going to a neighborhood, canvassing, people are going to be deceased, people will have moved on. I just don't know how they do it without more definitive information. Maybe it exists. I just haven't seen it.

[11:35:00] BOLDUAN: Asha, I am curious, with all of your background, if you were to offer advice to Christine Blasey Ford, what would you advise her to do right now? This is -- there are two very conflicting things here. Getting to the truth of someone's story, but also up against a political process that they want it to move forward in an expeditious way. Assuming the FBI does not reopen its background check, what would you advise?

RANGAPPA: You know, I have sat on the sexual misconduct committees at Yale and have been the chair of many hearings. And these are incredibly difficult for the parties, particularly the victim. You know, I wouldn't presume to tell her what to do. I think that there's -- if she's inclined to, the closed hearing seems to me to be the right option. This is not entertainment. If she chooses to give her story, I think she would be well within her rights to do it in as much privacy as possible.

GAGLIANO: I agree. I agree.

BOLDUAN: We'll see. Because now they have put a countdown clock on it, so we'll see what happens then.

Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.

RANGAPPA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, officials in Maryland will be holding a news conference shortly on reports of a deadly shooting at a Rite-Aid distribution center in the city of Aberdeen, Maryland. I think we're looking at live pictures right now from Aberdeen, Maryland. There was a wider shot earlier that shows how big the footprint is of this distribution facility. You can see what looks like SWAT, sheriff, some amount of team heading in there to try to take a look at what the scene is. Guns drawn in the front. We'll bring you this press conference live when it begins. But early reports were five people shot, three people dead.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:41:32] BOLDUAN: One year ago today, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and the real nightmare began. For so many people on the island, the nightmare is not over. They're still feeling the devastating impact to this day. An electrical grid still shaky. Clean water in some places still elusive. And many homes still without a real roof overhead. Add to that, President Trump last week declared the recovery efforts there a, quote/unquote, "unsung success," and dismissed the staggering death toll from the storm, 2,975 people.

So what is the real story of what happened to all of these American citizens?

CNN's Leyla Santiago was there before, during, and after, for many days after the storm covering the aftermath.

Leyla, great to see you.


BOLDUAN: You're telling the story of Puerto Rico has been so important for everyone to have eyes and ears on the ground. What is the real story, would you say, of what happened in Puerto Rico a year out?

SANTIAGO: You have to think of Puerto Rico like two different islands. What happened in San Juan, what the tourist scene, and then what happens outside of San Juan.

Think about a year ago today, around this hour, people were waking up and going outside to see the damage that had been done. Sort of walking around in shock. So a year later, it's important to ask, what has changed and what hasn't?


SANTIAGO (voice-over): Clarissa Ramos has to do this. Every time it rains, neighbors fill holes in the road to make what little Maria left passable. Even if narrowly.

CLARISSA RAMOS, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: This is the little road we got. We just put dirt here.

SANTIAGO: After Maria, Puerto Rico says only 2 percent of the island's roads were passable because of debris and landslides. But of course, for Clarisse, Hurricane Maria took away much more than a road. The storm stole her way of life.

(on camera): You can't talk about Maria without shedding a tear. Why?

CLARISSA RAMOS: My first time I lived through something like that.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): It would take nine months for hundreds of families here to have power restored, 11 months for the entire power grid, and some communities are still on generators. Ricardo Ramos was the CEO of Puerto Rico's power authority, PREPA,

when Maria struck the island.

RICARDO RAMOS, FORMER CEO, PREPA: The storm was just too big.

SANTIAGO (on camera): You knew what was coming. I mean, I remember specifically you said, our system is too weak to handle this. Why weren't PREPA more prepared if they knew how vulnerable the system was?

RICARDO RAMOS: You don't fix in one day. You don't fix in one week. It takes 10 years to fix the vulnerabilities that the PREPA system has.

SANTIAGO: Now in charge of PREPA, Jose Ortiz.

JOSE ORTIZ, CEO, PREPA: It's going to take four to five months more to stabilize the system.

SANTIAGO: If a storm comes tomorrow, he says they're ready.

(on camera): There were 32 contracts in place to bring people in. Why didn't Puerto Rico do that for Maria?

ORTIZ: They did too late.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Too late for people like Natali Rodriguez. His generator ran out of diesel in the middle of the night, the breathing machine he used shut down. He died.

MIRIAM RODRIGUEZ, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: If we had normal electricity at that time, he could be alive.

[11:45:04] SANTIAGO: Nearly a year after the hurricane, Puerto Rico changed its official death toll, jumping from 64 to 2,975. A number President Trump takes issue with. Tweeting, "3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hill Puerto Rico."

The change in death toll came months after CNN's investigation reveals the death toll was likely nine times what the government of Puerto Rico was reporting.

The latest death statistics are showing reasons for yet another concern.


SANTIAGO: This is Puerto Rico's 24-hour suicide hotline. And 20 minutes after our arrival, a call comes in, a mother of two struggling with anxiety. She tells the operator Tropical Storm Isaac is looming too close.


SANTIAGO (on camera): So he says, in one eight-hour shift, he will take a call like that 30, 40 times.

(voice-over): Callers reaching out for help with the trauma that lingers, loss of a job, loss of a loved one, loss of a roof over their heads.

Luz Cologne is one of at least 45,000 still depending on tarps in Puerto Rico.

(on camera): So we're in her room, and I hear thunder. It's tough because she thinks about what could be coming.



SANTIAGO: It's tough because she thinks about what could be coming.

(voice-over): We last saw Luz in the days after Maria. One year later, she acknowledges progress but says she and the island have a long way to go.


BOLDUAN: That's one thing that really folks don't appreciate, the trauma of it all. You can see trauma on every single person's face when they talk about it with you.


BOLDUAN: A year out, do folks in Puerto Rico think the rest of the country has forgotten or just doesn't get it?

SANTIAGO: I heard that over and over, people who said they felt forgotten. Luz, the woman we introduced you to at the end, she said it's been a year, and since Maria, CNN is the only person who has come to check on me. So she feels like no -- she feels forgotten. She feels alone.

Again, I want to be very clear, give credit where credit is due.

BOLDUAN: There is progress.

SANTIAGO: There's progress. You fly into San Juan, you'll see tourism booming again. You'll also see blue tarps. You'll also see 20 minutes out, a very different story. So, yes, let's give credit where credit is due, but let's acknowledge that many people do feel forgotten, and it's been a year. It's been a year.

BOLDUAN: Yes. We're not forgetting. You're right there.

SANTIAGO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you Leyla. It's great to see you. Thank you so much.

A very important programming note. On this note of do not forget, listen and tune in tomorrow night, CNN special report "Storm of Controversy, What Really Happened in Puerto Rico." That airs tomorrow night, 10:00 eastern, only on CNN.

Still ahead for us, soon officials in Maryland will be holding a news conference on reports of a deadly shooting at a Rite-Aid distribution center in the city of Aberdeen, Maryland. We'll bring you that when it comes in live. They're setting up as we speak. Reports are fatalities. Early reports are five people shot. We'll see what the number is, unfortunately, when the sheriff takes to the microphone. We'll bring that to you. Stay with us.


[11:52:47] BOLDUAN: Standing by right now for a live news conference out of Aberdeen, Maryland, after reports of a fatal shooting at a distribution facility for Rite-Aid company. This is about 30 miles north of Baltimore. We are standing by for the sheriff to hold a news conference as we speak.

As we are waiting for this, because they could be coming out any moment, let me bring in CNN's Joe Johns, who have been following these early reports.

Joe, bring us up to speed on what we do know.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we do not know a lot. What we do know is the authorities will hold that news conference about this hour to fill in some of the blanks. The initial reports came out were five people shot and three killed. That could be amended and revised depending on what we hear moments from now. This is a distribution facility for Rite-Aid, Rite-Aid being the drugstore brand that we are very familiar with.

We were told initially that the scene was secured. This is a facility that has about 1,000 people apparently who work there. It appears to have been a lockdown for some time.

The governor of the state of Maryland, Larry Hogan, did tweet out a while ago referring to this as a horrific shooting. We don't know what the governor knows more than we do at this stage.

About a half hour's drive, I'd say, from Harford County near Aberdeen to the city of Baltimore, Maryland. The FBI is involved. We know they are helping out. Sounds like the situation is secure. We are looking for details now -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right, Joe.

We are standing by to bring you the press conference. We are monitoring this. When the sheriff comes out to speak. We will bring it to you as soon as it begins.

In the meantime, a new and explosive claim from Donald Trump's legal team. Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow, now tell CNN that NBC edited out important parts of Lester Holt's interview with the president last year. This was the interview where President Trump said that he had Russia on his mind. He was thinking of the Russia investigation when he fired James Comey. Joining me is CNN's Brian Stelter, the host of CNN's "RELIABLE


Brian, this is something that Jay Sekulow said to CNN's Chris Cuomo last night. Do we know -- is this real?

[11:55:25] BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": There's a glimmer of truth to that that is really interesting. What he is saying is not literally fair at NBC. NBC did not try to cover something up or, like President Trump claimed a few weeks ago, fudge the tape. That's what Trump tweeted. He said that NBC fudged the tape. That's not true.

What is true is there was one part of the interview that was a big deal and got all of our attention.


STELTER: Because it exposed Trump to obstruction of justice claims. Later in the same interview, Trump said a lot of other things. I think what Sekulow is doing here is he's trying to point over there and saying you are missing the other part of what he said in the same interview. Yes, it was edited on the NBC Nightly News and other places. To be clear, the entire context is right there on and right there on The entire interview has been clear for over a year.

What they are seeing here is they acknowledge they are vulnerable and they have a problem with the Holt interview. They have been talking to the Mueller team about it for months. That was the news in the Cuomo interview. They had multiple dialogues between the Trump legal team and the Mueller team about this Holt interview and about what Trump admitted in the interview.

BOLDUAN: There's something to do with the timing. The fact that this is coming now, Brian. If NBC had inaccurately edited an interview, you would think President Trump's staff in the room at the time of the interview --

STELTER: They would have called it out right away.

BOLDUAN: -- would have called it out. Now, that's why I don't really get it now.

STELTER: That's right. That's the strange thing about this. It shows the legal team knows they are vulnerable and it shows a little bit about the conversations between Mueller and the Trump legal team. Here's the sound and what's at issue with Sekulow and Trump.


TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless.


TRUMP: He made a recommendation and he is highly respected and very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time to do it. In fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.


STELTER: That's the key sound. That's the sound that was right from the interview, the headline in May of 2017, that Russia was on Trump's mind when he fired Comey. A lot of what we have been talking about comes back to that quote.

Later on, in the same interview, Trump said, "I knew by firing Comey it might lengthen the Russia investigation. This might be around longer."

Both things are true at the same time. Trump said both of those things in the NBC interview, this fateful interview. Sekulow is saying, look over there, don't look over here. That's what's going on.

BOLDUAN: If it was so wrong when it was "edited," quote/unquote, is it a possibility it wouldn't have been called out immediately as we replayed that a million times.

Anyway, great to see you, Brian --

STELTER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: -- and thank you so much.

We are also watching the breaking news out of Maryland. You are looking at where the press conference will be happening. Reports of a shooting in a Rite-Aid distribution facility in that city. The sheriff will be holding a press conference. And we will bring that to you live, coming up.