Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Kavanaugh Accuser Has Until Friday Morning to Agree to Testify; Student Pilot Allegedly Jumps Fence and Boards Passenger Jet; South Korea President: Kim Jong-un Hoping for Second Trump Summit; South Korea President to Deliver Private Message from Kim to Trump; Pompeo Wants to Complete Talks with North Korea By 2021; Wall Street to Open Higher Despite Trade War; Kavanaugh Accuser Ford has Until 10 a.m. Friday to Agree to Testify; GOP Grapples with Kavanaugh Political Fallout Ahead of Midterms. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- before because they know that their services will be in need.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I love the Cajun Navy.

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: I was with them in Houston after Harvey. They are full service. And they kept us safe. We did all sorts of rescues from people who were trapped and they brought lunch.

BERMAN: There you go.

CAMEROTA: It was really great. All right. Time now for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. We're glad you're with us this morning. It is 9:00 a.m. out here in the east. It is 25 hours before a deadline that has been set by the Senate Judiciary Committee for Christine Blasey Ford to formally accept its invitation to appear at a hearing on Monday or to let the opportunity pass perhaps forever.

For now Ford's attorney made it very clear she is still holding out for an FBI investigation of her claim that Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school in the 1980s. The Republican committee at this point is not budging.

SCIUTTO: At the same time it is taking pains to stress not just willingness but eagerness to hear from Ford herself in virtually any place or format of her choosing. Result this morning each side is accusing the other of not playing fair. And that brings us to CNN's Manu Raju, he is on Capitol Hill.

Manu, I wonder, with this new request for more witnesses and also still waiting to answer whether she's going to take this opportunity to testify, has that shifted the dynamics on Capitol Hill?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Undoubtedly yes. More towards the Republicans. Kavanaugh appears to be on safer ground to get confirmed if she does not testify. That because a number of Republicans who have been concerned about these allegations and they suggested perhaps they believe she's credible, that they would not vote for Judge Kavanaugh, well, if she doesn't show up on Monday's hearing they may end up siding with Kavanaugh as the Republicans try to push for a final confirmation vote beginning in the committee as soon as next week in the floor soon after.

Now one key senator yesterday, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who has been so critical to this nomination fight, one of the two Republican senators in particular that we've been looking at very, very closely, yesterday she said she was very concerned about the possibility of there being no hearing and said that's not fair for Judge Kavanaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I think it's not fair to Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify. Both of them need to testify under oath next Monday before the Judiciary Committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And the two sides have been trading a series of letters between the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the chairman of the committee Chuck Grassley, each accusing the other of being disingenuous in these negotiations. One notable thing, though, yesterday when Christine Blasey Ford's attorney did comment in response to all of this while calling for additional outside witnesses, which Grassley has rejected, has not ruled out the possibility of appearing on Monday.

And that's giving at least some Democrats hope that perhaps she does appear. And that could change the dynamics once again. But expect today to be another day of perhaps fingering and posturing before that key decision comes tomorrow.

HARLOW: Yes. All right.

SCIUTTO: Imagine that. More finger pointing and posturing. Yes.

HARLOW: Never happens. Something so important to be above all politics.

Manu, thanks for the important update.

Let's talk about this. Our contributors Alex Burns, Bianna Golodyga are here, also former federal prosecutor Ellie Honig joins us.

Good morning to you all. And Alex, let me begin with something that your paper, "The New York Times," the way that they put it this morning that -- and Manu got into this, but Ford's insistence on an FBI investigation and more witnesses at this hearing, according to some analysis by "The Times," quote, "seemed to have galvanized Republicans and drew wavering Republican senators back into the Kavanaugh camp."

Do you see it that way? I mean, if you look at the change in phrasing and statements from Corker or Flake, for example, it really is dramatic.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly is. I think when you look at Republican senators -- wavering Republican senators, they're obviously under enormous pressure to stay on board or get on board with this nomination. And with this timetable for this nomination, right? That's just a critical piece of this.

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: But like - but Corker and Flake aren't running again and still their tune really has changed.

BURNS: That's right. But they've also been pretty consistently unwilling to clash with their party on --

HARLOW: In votes. In voting. Right.

BURNS: Right. When it actually comes down to voting. And right now the timing I think for Republicans is as big a flash point and perfect point as the actual substance of the allegations and the nomination that it's very, very clear that Mitch McConnell wants this judge confirmed before the start of a new Supreme Court session and they certainly don't want to push this whole debate into October or passed the election when the leverage that Republicans have over Democratic senators who are up for re-election essentially disappears.

[09:05:02] So what you're hearing from those Republicans is, you know, they want to hear more about these allegations. They don't want to be seen as ramming through the nomination. They also don't want to get into a situation where Dr. Blasey's lawyers end up in a protracted multi negotiation that snarls the timing.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And don't forget Corker and Flake were supporters of Kavanaugh.

SCIUTTO: Right.

HARLOW: Yes, true.

GOLODRYGA: So it's not as if they were --

HARLOW: Then they have said we want to hear from her, et cetera.

GOLODRYGA: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: As Alex is saying there, the fact is that there is a political motivation for this time line and for this deadline and for the speed with which Republicans are demanding that she come forward, is there not?

GOLODRYGA: Well, and I think Republicans could say that door was opened on Monday when Dr. Ford's attorney said that she was willing to testify. Then fast forward less than 48 hours later and they said, no, she wants an FBI investigation. I think within those 48 hours, Republicans were really worried about whether or not they were going to have to withdraw his nomination, whether there wouldn't be enough votes.

I think given the fact that her attorneys then came forward and said, listen, we need an investigation first really changed the calculus. And I know there's been a lot of attention focused from Republicans on the way Dianne Feinstein has handled this, right?

HARLOW: Handled this.

GOLODRYGA: And from the president and others to not blame Ford necessarily but Feinstein. And we have been talking about this off camera. One thing I don't really understand is while she wanted to protect Dr. Ford's anonymity, why not report it to the FBI and open an investigation then. Anonymous. Not bring it out to the public but start that investigation.

HARLOW: A head's up, there is something that you should look into here in these six checks.

GOLODRYGA: Yes.

HARLOW: You know, that have been done on him since he was running for the court he currently sits on.

GOLODRYGA: Right. Some new information.

SCIUTTO: Right. Could she have done that with reasonable expectation of keeping Ford's identity confidential?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Sure. I mean there is always the risk that the FBI leaks, but absolutely. You have to assume the FBI is going to keep the victim -- especially of a sex crime -- confidential. And I think Feinstein really made a mistake there.

HARLOW: Grassley said on Tuesday, quote, "Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee." So there is no reason for further delay. You're shaking your head.

HONIG: Completely disagree. Completely disagree. The FBI can --

HARLOW: Do you think it's wrong empirically on --

HONIG: Yes.

HARLOW: Fact basis?

HONIG: Logically, factually. The FBI can and should investigate this. First of all, there has been this notion out there from some of the senators it's not a federal crime. It's certainly a federal interest if this nominee for U.S. Supreme Court gets put on for a life tenure. When I was a brand-new prosecutor, 29 years old, they did a background

check on me. They spoke to my high school friends and my parents' neighbors, and a summer camp counselor because --

HARLOW: A summer camp counselor.

HONIG: Yes. Well, they went back 10 years so 19 years of --

HARLOW: There you go. Summer camp.

HONIG: But I was a nobody compared to what Judge Kavanaugh could become. So the FBI absolutely can and should investigate this. Let's get the facts. And isn't it so telling that Dr. Ford's camp is the one saying we want an investigation and the Republican senators are the ones saying there's no time, there's no --

HARLOW: As you pointed out yesterday, Jim, two things can happen at the same time. The Anita Hill investigation took three days.

SCIUTTO: Right.

HARLOW: You could have started this yesterday and it could theoretically have been done by Monday.

SCIUTTO: And the other precedent there is that a Republican president with Anita Hill in 1991, 27 years ago, ordered the FBI to do that investigation. The president has implied, well, that's not what the FBI does. But in fact the FBI can do this if the president were to request it.

BURNS: They sure can. And it does seem, to me at least, like this is a place where Republicans -- you know, there is a sort of bigger political question here than are you going to hit your marks on timing between now and the end of this month. If this issue isn't really substantively put to rest in a way that makes at least a solid plurality of the public comfortable with this process, that could have serious political implications in November. It could have serious long-term implications in terms of how the majority on the court is viewed, that if you're a senator who is going to vote for this nomination.

HARLOW: Right.

BURNS: You probably do want to have a reasonable confidence, not just that these sort of procedural negotiations worked out in Judge Kavanaugh's favor here, but that the deeper truth of the matter will ultimately look good in the eyes of history and in the eyes of voters in the next few years.

HARLOW: Or Kavanaugh in the eyes of history. Do you want the cloud over you that still hangs over Clarence Thomas?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: And it's not a he said-she said in the sense that she places a third party at the scene as well. Mark Judge, I just wonder how much power Republicans have or Democrats to subpoena him. He said he doesn't want to testify. He doesn't remember anything. But he does not say that I was not there.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: True.

SCIUTTO: Should -- and again no one can make this decision but Christine Blasey Ford. And she is under enormous pressure. There are threats. She's had to leave her home, et cetera, and she is recalling a traumatic experience. So it is up to her. But in your view, should she take this opportunity to testify under oath as to these allegations as she's given it. Maybe not on the time frame that she wants but should she take the opportunity?

HONIG: I have dealt with situations like this. It's really difficult when you have a victim of a sexual assault. It's always -- like you said, it's their choice. Right? It has to be the individual's choice.

[09:10:05] I really hope for the larger interest, the larger public good, that she does come forward and she does testify, because what I really hope does not happen is the FBI or the GOP senators find some reason not to do this investigation, which they can do -- they can have this come by tomorrow afternoon. Interview five or six people. And then come Monday, and Dr. Ford decides I'm not going to testify because I need that corroboration that's out there, and then what do the senators do?

You talked about the long-term view, which I think is what we hope they would do, but I think the short term view is they just say, we gave her a chance. She didn't show. Too bad. Let's move on.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HONIG: And that could be the short-term play.

GOLODRYGA: And look, one could think that she's had at least six or seven weeks to think about this exact scenario playing out, right? She was worried about this happening nonetheless. She submitted that letter. She said that she was concerned that this would turn into a media spectacle. It has. At some point she's got to ask herself now that we are here should I come forward?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Yes. Thank you all.

SCIUTTO: Thanks to all of you. It's a tough subject. And every one of these questions is tough for all involved.

The devil is in the details. South Korea's president says that Kim Jong-un isn't just saying he is going to denuclearize. North Korea gave specifics at least some on how it's going to do so. But can we trust those promises? And one year after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, Governor

Ricardo Rosello on where things stand on the island today and what he really thinks about President Trump's claims that 3,000 people really didn't die after this storm.

HARLOW: Right. A direct answer from him on that. It's ahead.

Also, on the same morning that President Trump is touting job numbers, a Chinese billionaire says the administration's trade war has killed his pledge to create a million U.S. jobs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Let's get down to some breaking news. The Joint Terrorism Task Force is now investigating a security breach at an airport outside Orlando, Florida. Officials say that a student pilot was arrested after allegedly jumping a security fence and boarding a passenger jet. Cnn correspondent Jean Casarez is here with the latest.

Is there any evidence that they're ties to terrorism at this point or too early?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are investigating, and we're learning more really by the minute. We still don't have his name, but what we do know is it happened at 2:00 this morning, which I think could become significant.

It was a student pilot that went into an unauthorized security area -- you're looking at live pictures right there. That is the plane, it is an American Airlines Airbus A321 jet. And according to officials, this 26-year-old student pilot got into the plane, but maintenance workers that were on the ground alerted immediately police they saw it.

POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Wow --

CASAREZ: So they're really heroes --

SCIUTTO: Wow --

CASAREZ: This morning --

SCIUTTO: There are no questions --

CASAREZ: And they actually -- two minutes later, the police got on the scene. But we know he's 26 years old, he's from Trinidad, he does have a Florida driver's license, he came to the United States through Canada, but he is now being held at the Brevard County jail in Florida.

SCIUTTO: And whatever his motivations in this, it's alarming that in the year 2018, 17 years after 9/11 --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: And remember this incident we had in Seattle --

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: Just a few weeks ago, that's an alarming security breach.

CASAREZ: That's right, that's right, and it's very serious. And obviously he's being held at a local county jail, but I think federal charges, if they are brought, would be the ones. But the -- we do not know his name --

HARLOW: OK --

CASAREZ: But it is a large jet and I think -- I think that's significant.

HARLOW: Bravo to the --

SCIUTTO: I know you'll stay on top of it --

HARLOW: Yes, the team is on the ground that alerted police, and that they arrived two minutes later -- Jean, thank you --

CASAREZ: Yes --

HARLOW: As always for your great reporting. To North Korea now, North's supreme leader Kim Jong-un wants to denuclearize quickly, so he says, and says he's hoping for a second meeting with the president, President Trump to try to speed that up. That is all according to South Korea's President Moon Jae-in who just returned from a three-day visit where it was an incredibly warming, and the two leaders embraced at the end of this visit.

We're told that he will deliver a private message from Kim when Moon meets with President Trump next week in New York, of course, for the UN General Assembly.

SCIUTTO: On the heels of that meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that he will restart renegotiations with North Korea with the goal of completing them by the end of President Trump's first term.

Joining us now to discuss all of this is Cnn global affairs analyst Joseph Yun, he's also a former special U.S. representative for North Korea Policy. A number of years on this issue, Joseph, thanks for coming on, you know this damn well. On the first question, you looked at that agreement between North and South Korea, some promises there.

One, a new promise, destroy this missile testing site, that's been promised before, but with inspectors this time and a general promise to take down Yongbyon, what's your assessment of how substantive those promises are?

JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Jim, good to be here. I think this is a good beginning, and it does leave a good opening. And, you know, you mentioned Pompeo's statement yesterday. Pompeo's statement, I think is a good start. He wants to get a process going, and that's what we need to get going. Still, I would say I'm a little bit concerned about inconsistency in

how Washington has approached this. Look, two weeks ago, President Trump stopped Pompeo from going to North Korea. Now all of a sudden this is good news, and so we need a consistent, steady diplomacy that will nudge along North Korea to where we want to go, which is denuclearization.

HARLOW: Let me just ask you this, right, being the devil's advocate here. Consistent diplomacy has never worked with North Korea, right? It has been tried under Democratic and Republican administrations to the same end with different leaders.

[09:20:00] I just wonder if the calculus by the Trump administration here of clear inconsistency and doing things like that, and pulling Pompeo back two weeks ago and now saying -- in the president's words yesterday, "it's calm", things are much calmer now. I don't know, is there any sort of, you know, mad man effect there that could be effective?

YUN: Well, I mean, that's a good point, and I've heard that argument being made. I don't think so. I think in the end, we have a clear goal. There is clear danger there --

HARLOW: Yes --

YUN: And we need to have a process to walk them along. We need to listen to what North Koreans are saying, and we need to convey to them. I mean, they have always wanted a deal in which, you know, we take steps each. But Washington has insisted you go forth, all in, and then we will follow. That's not working.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and that dynamic, North Korea is not playing by those rules, right? Because this promise to take down the Yongbyon nuclear facility, they say comes only with corresponding measures --

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: I'm quoting there by the U.S. side. North Korea hasn't specified those measures yet. And that also does not meet the U.S. standard, right? Because the U.S. is saying, listen, you've got to take concrete steps first.

YUN: Jim, you're right. They will say -- I mean, Yongbyon, Jim, is a very significant side.

SCIUTTO: Yes --

YUN: So when they said they would take it down, it is very significant. But as you said, they have said they will do it with corresponding measure. What are those measures? I mean, I -- you know, so far, they have been saying they want an end of war statement.

And so far, they've been saying they want to lift sanctions. I think end of war statement is something we should do and we can do, lifting sanctions would be very premature. Next week as you mentioned, President Moon will be in New York. I believe he will bring something along with him to suggest to Mr.

Trump, maybe these are the steps that you could possibly take. So we'll have to see. But I think that's what needs to go on. And then of course, Secretary Pompeo said he would meet with North Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister from North Korea, and then the special representative -- new special representative Steve Biegun is going to New York.

So there are things happening. But again, I come back to the issue that, you know, so far I would say White House or President Trump has been very binary, is either fire and fury or it's, you know, he's a good guy --

HARLOW: Or calm, or calm --

YUN: Yes, he's calm --

HARLOW: I mean --

YUN: You know --

HARLOW: Like, yes, in the span of what? You know, eight, ten months, it's been fire and fury to things are calm. So --

SCIUTTO: Yes, we think --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: This time last year at the last UN General, that's when President Trump --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Gave a speech --

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: To rocket man, et cetera. Listen, progress is good, we'll continue to watch it closely. Joseph Yun, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you --

SCIUTTO: It's a year to the day since the worst storm in 85 years pummeled the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Wrecking power grids, destroying farms, flattening homes. The governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rossello is next.

HARLOW: But first, the quick check of the market this morning before Wall Street rings the opening bell. The U.S. embroiled in this trade war with China. Now, Wall Street though, really shaking it off, again, closing at record highs, Futures looking in the green this morning, we'll keep you posted.

[09:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: "Time Magazine" this morning with a striking new cover, take a look, on it, you see Judge Kavanaugh behind him, faded out there, enlarged image of Justice Clarence Thomas, both men with their hand up taking the oath there. And the pointed question, what's changed?

SCIUTTO: Of course, one of the answers is Me Too. And that could present enormous political risk for Republicans as they try to keep control of Congress. Joining us now, our Cnn political commentator is Margaret Hoover and Alice Stewart. Alice, if I could begin with you, it appeared particularly in the last 24 hours as Christine Blasey Ford has not yet taken the opportunity to testify under oath on Monday that Republicans are galvanizing, ready to move forward with a vote next week on this.

I wonder in your view, does that present political risks for them in the midterms and after?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: In terms of Republican efforts and what they're galvanizing right now on the Hill is, they're really working hard to especially in this Me Too era to give Dr. Ford the opportunity to speak. And I think they're being especially cautious with what is in her best interest, and what is at her comfort level.

Whether they do it in public or private or in California or on the Hill -- and I see Senator Grassley and other members of the committee working extra diligently to make sure and take her feelings and her thoughts and her anguish into consideration with regard to how they move forward.

And that is in my view how this will be viewed by the Republican electorate as we move to the midterms. And I think they do see that specifically Senator Grassley and members of this committee are being mindful of what Dr. Ford --

HARLOW: But --

STEWART: Is going through and that is part of the consideration for her testimony.

HARLOW: But how careful, Margaret, who I mean -- both of you are conservative women. For you, Alice, strategist, both women, for you, Maggie, worked in the Bush White House. Now, you're a consultant on these issues. I mean, Lindsey Graham's language yesterday and this is quoted this morning in "The Washington Post", quote, "this is beneath drive-by shooting", Senator Graham says --